Between 1967 and 1970 Noland worked on a body of horizontally striped, rectangular paintings, completing more than two hundred.1 He had begun using this format earlier, while still exploring the variations in his series of diamond-shaped canvases (1964-67). These early horizontal striped paintings were long and thin and loosely painted with the brush. By the time this type of painting became Noland's main concern, in 1967, he took on assistants for the first time and began using masking tape to give precision to the stripes. The usual procedure was to staple a length of canvas to the floor, paint on the stripes using tape to guide the edges of each line, then crop the canvas to an appropriate size. By 1967 the paintings had become wider and often the stirpes were arranged around bare canvas. The colours were varied in the early stripes but tended to be restricted in the works after 1968. Made in 1970 in the artist's studio at South Shaftesbury, Vermont, Oakum was one of the last of this type of painting. In an interview in 1971 Noland mentioned that he liked 'that edge between water and land',2 something that plans the notion of landscape into his horizontal stripe paintings; the title Oakum refers to the compound of loose fibre made of old rope used in caulking the planking of boats.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.421.