Painting: Bold Emblems

For roughly a decade, the works of a slight, wiry, North Carolina-born painter named Kenneth Noland, 45, have been vehemently praised and just as savagely dissected in art magazines, while remaining relatively unappreciated by the general museum going public. The reason is that Noland's paintings, from the time he first began to attract attention with his "target" canvases of 1957, have remained icily symmetrical, uncompromisingly abstract, and thus seemingly impersonal. The debate has raged over whether (as his foes charged) they are merely decorative, or whether (as his friends claimed) they...

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