Target practice

Kenneth Noland, That, 1958-1959, New York, New York

Today I’m thinking of archery, women archers (beginning with the goddess Diana) and the wonder of The Hunger Games. Which leads me to the subject of targets in art.

Although Kenneth Noland wasn’t the first to paint targets as art, (there is a  famous series by Jasper Johns) I  like this one for its big blue middle. Any novice who has taken dead aim at a dart board would appreciate this bigger bullseye. I mean wouldn’t life be a little sweeter if it were easier to hit?

Although I don’t think Noland’s intention is to give us a pass here. This target is a test. In life, a test of relaxation and accuracy and strength; but here, a test of what we think constitutes “subject matter” in painting.

The target sheds its symbolic qualities to become merely a flattened image. Concentric rings whose colors create the driving force, stuck on an indistinct cloud of grey. A dedication to color field painting which concerns itself with intense juxtapositions of color and elevates color itself as the “star of the show.”

However, I can’t shake the feeling that he is also playing with target’s symbolism. Asking us about the  boundaries between winning and losing and if they are as hard drawn as we would like to believe.  Challenging the grey fog of the “as-ran,” where all of us who are actually playing end up from time to time.

And if you were to take aim at this image, where would you point your arrow? The red, the traditional center, is now on the outside. So, which ring is the winning one?  It’s the old existential crisis  again–we make our own targets, create our own rules and are therefore afield in the grey ambiguity. With little sense of whether we are winning or losing.  Ego, that great muscle, longs for the life and death, “winner takes all” scenarios of competition ala The Hunger Games, The Most Dangerous Game, the Olympics, war.

When you draw your ring of circles, do you choose, tiny red center or big blue one?