Two years ago, in the valedictory show at Andre Emmerich’s gallery, Kenneth Noland brilliantly reimagined the circle paintings that had made him famous some forty years earlier. In that exhibition, he used a small format, metallic pigments, and a host of materials—such as transparent resin—which added texture and thickness to an iconic image, which, over a generation ago, had seemed the epitome of Greenbergian flatness. So unexpected and so impressive was Noland’s first return to the circle that his next attempt, “Kenneth Noland: Circles” at Ameringer Howard, was bound to feel anticlimactic. Not that his new circle series has any less rigor or beauty than the last go-round, but the level of inventiveness was diminished somewhat in the new show to quieter, more subtle modulations.

That Noland once again embraced flatness in his most recent circle paintings comes as a mild shock, since by doing so he...

 
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