Cady Noland

Year and place of birth: 1956, Washington DC, United States Location: New York, United States

When Cady Noland was born, her father Kenneth Noland was one of the most important artists associated with Colour Field painting. This movement was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, which in Western art history is regarded as the very first American art movement after a long period of European supremacy. The post-war economy was flourishing and the US was facing the future with optimism. But this was set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the suppressed protests of 1968.

In her art, Cady Noland lashes out uncompromisingly at the flip side of the American dream – the idea of freedom, safety and prosperity for all. Her thesis on the psychopathology of American culture prompted her to write the essay ‘Towards a Metalanguage of Evil’ in 1987. It offers a razor-sharp critique of social ambivalence in America: people who exploit those who cannot escape what Noland cynically describes as the ‘meta-game’ available in the US. This became one of the central themes of her oeuvre.

The American flag appears frequently in her works, albeit seldom in a dignified state. Later work displayed a pronouncedly sculptural vocabulary of found ready-mades which continued to broach themes such as violence, control mechanisms and spatial and physical limitation (such as fences and handcuffs). From 1992, Noland’s productivity declined and in the late 1990s she withdrew, disappointed and dissatisfied with the way things were going in the art world.

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