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Kenneth Noland was born on April 10, 1924, in Asheville, North Carolina. After finishing high school in 1942, he served in the U.S. Air Force. From 1946 to 1948 he studied at Black Mountain College, near Asheville, under Josef Albers and Ilya Bolotowsky, and traveled to Paris to study painting and sculpture in Ossip Zadkine’s Paris studio. Noland had his first solo show at Galerie Raymond Creuze in Paris in 1949. On his return to the United States in 1949, he settled in Washington, D.C., where he taught at the Institute of Contemporary Art and at the Catholic University. Noland’s early paintings suggest his interest in the work of Paul Klee, but by the early 1950s the influence of Jackson Pollock had become evident in his work.
In 1952 he became friends with Morris Louis, who shared his interest in Pollock's work. The following year Clement Greenberg took them to Helen Frankenthaler’s studio in New York. In 1958 Noland began to paint rings of color, with special attention to the interaction of the colors themselves, thereby departing from Abstract Expressionism. From 1963 on he replaced the circle motif with a chevron shape, as in Dusk (1962). His work was included in the Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, 1954–1964 exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London in 1964, and in the The Responsive Eye exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965. At the end of the 1960s Noland began to paint in a new style focused on horizontal lines of color, as in April Tune (1969). During the same period, he began to make sculptures in steel. In the 1970s Noland continued to pursue his interest in color but began including more irregular shapes in his paintings. He participated in the American Color group show at the Visual Arts Museum in New York in 1976.
The first retrospective of Noland’s work was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1977 and subsequently traveled to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. Solo exhibitions of his work were presented at the University Art Museum at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984, and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in 2004. In 1995 Noland received the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts. Noland died on January 5, 2010, in Port Clyde, Maine.