APPRECIATING NOLAND

SERIES

circles / chevrons / diamonds / stripes / plaids
shapes / papers / 80s chevrons / doors / flares

ONE OF THE THINGS many painters strive for is an approach or method which contributes to pictorial unity. To some extent this frees the artist from some aspect of "composing" while allowing him to focus on what he does best. This accounts for a portion at least of what we call an artist's style. When carried into format it becomes the rationale for "series" painting. In Noland's case this approach has involved a succession of geometric formats. The format of a "Chevron," "Surfboard," or "Flare" helps unify individual pictures yet can be repeated many times. This enables the adjustment of colors and handling without fussing to "compose" the format itself.

Working in series was practiced by many artists before Noland, but seldom so strictly or methodically. One has to go back to Monet in the 1890s for such a resolute approach to painting in series. But the approach seems more necessary and productive for Noland than it was for Monet. In his series which use repeated motifs -- "Haystacks," "Cathedral Fronts," and "Poplars" -- Monet didn't rise to the heights he'd reached in the 1870s and early '80s with more conventionally varied compositions. In comparison, Noland has found freedom in formats that on the surface seem rigidly preconceived.

Many of Noland's series have used symmetrical layouts. This is especially true of his paintings of the '60s. By virtue of their harmony, symmetry, simplicity, and measured generosity of scale Noland's paintings from the "Circles" through the "Stripes" have the traditional virtues of a classical style.