Kenneth Noland's Targets
During the early 50s, the famous art critic Clement Greenberg invited Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis, who at the time were second generation Abstract Expressionists, to the New York studio of Helen Frankenthaler to view her recently completed Mountains and Sea . Frankenthaler used a unique painting technique of pouring oil paints onto unprimed canvas thereby allowing the colors to soak in and spread rather than simply drying on the surface. Viewing Mountains and Sea, the innovative color-field painting technique had evidently marked a major turning point in Noland's career as an artist. Following this studio visit, Noland decided to abandon any tendencies to paint in the Abstract Expressionist style and began work on a set of color-field paintings for which he would become best known: the Targets.
Kenneth Noland's Target paintings, alternatively called Circles, were undoubtedly his breakthrough works. In 1958 he began applying a variety of color to a basic circle template positioned on a square canvas, often creating a burst of concentric circles rendered in complementary colors, which contrasted well against the square support.
One other fascinating feature of Noland's early Targets, painted between 1958 and 1960, was the
presence of a smeared, almost jagged outer edge which framed the inner circles, suggesting a final burst of seemingly infinite color, stretching outward into the cosmos.
As the 1960s commenced, Noland's use of color grew increasingly bold and ambitious. In his earlier, less refined Target paintings, heavier color forms were situated against a white or off-white
backdrop. By 1962 Noland began to experiment with colored backdrops and cleaner dividing lines between each circle. He also began making the innermost point of his circles the visual focal point rather than the outer layers.
By 1963, Noland had concluded that his 'circles in a square' format was exhausted and it was time for something new. Noland wanted to continue to experiment with colors and their interactions with one another, but he needed a different format with which to work. The Chevron series was his next phase as an artist, growing increasingly simple and minimalist with his abstract imagery.