Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kenneth Noland, 1924-2010

One of late Modernism's foremost color painters died today, and if you take a walk through the major NYC collections you'll see very few of his paintings.

So rather than eulogize Ken Noland, I'm going to make an open plea to the big museums and galleries: please take these marvelous pictures out of mothballs and mount a show. I had a similar hope at the passing of Jules Olitski, but it didn't happen. I'm frankly not optimistic about this one either.

Many of the key players of the Contemporary Art Institution (the museum directors, curators, department chairs, writers) made their bones by slaying Clement Greenberg and the painters associated with him. Their victory was complete: In "Art Since 1900," the 704 page volume on modern art released in 2004 by the heavyweight foursome of Yves-Alan Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, and former Greenberg disciple Rosalind Krauss, the subject of Color Field is essentially omitted - there is apparently a sidebar reference on page 472.

I've always said that in order for calm reevaluation of this period in painting to occur, the big players will probably need to have died. Greenberg, Noland, Olitski, and Morris Louis are all gone, and Larry Poons has moved on to utter idiosyncrasy.

Can't we take another look? Please?