A Kenneth Noland piece like this one opens up a space any abstractionist should find attractive to enter, best described in Noland’s own words:

Kenneth Noland, Acute 1977

Kenneth Noland, Acute 1977

“It’s been on my mind—what would something be like if it were unbalanced? It’s been a vexing question for a long time. But it took the experience of working with radical kinds of symmetry, not just a rectangle, but a diamond shape, as well as extreme extrusions of shapes, before I finally came to the idea of everything being unbalanced, nothing vertical, nothing horizontal, nothing parallel. I came to the fact that unbalancing has its own order. In a peculiar way it can still end up feeling symmetrical.”

Start with “nothing vertical, nothing horizontal, nothing parallel” and we have a pretty progressive ambition. I like it. That’s technique, and it’s always refreshing to find a new one. As it happens there’s a good dose of this kind of thing in Stella’s Polish Villages, a topic for another post. For me it fits right in with my aversion to grids and preference for diagonals, but in the context of geometric abstraction—the real kind with ruled lines and measured spaces—it amounts to an opening up from within, a way of letting more life into geometry.

That would be a good place to stop, or get into the studio, but the aesthetic problem is the vexation that comes when the unbalanced becomes yet another balance. Unbalance, dissonance, disunity, awkwardness—you can get ’em but you can’t keep ’em. I’m glad I’m not concerned with aesthetics, that would just be preoccupation with failure. Making the work is hard enough, but a lot more fun.

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