In New York, some raved, some ranted. The exhibit, "Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective," drew comments ranging from "delightful" to "worn out," "must be seen" to "cocktail lounge art." For Washington, the exhibit, which will be shown jointly at the Hirshhorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery, will be not only a retrospective, but also a return, because Noland first began to receive public recognition in Washington, where he worked from 1949 to 1962. His works are about color (some might say that all they are is color), they are vivid, accessible, polished. As critic Mark Stevens put it in Newsweek, "Depending on your taste, Noland was a messiah of modernism or just a good designer of sheets." Whether you agree with the former or just happen to appreciate good sheets, there will be a lot to see, too much for one museum. Noland's early works, the "target" paintings, elliptical and chevron abstractions will be at the Hirshhorn; the later stripes, plaids an irregular canvases will be at the Corcoran. It would seem appropriate to precede the opening by a series of progressive dinners, with Noland's exhibit the dessert. Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective. Hirshhorn Museum, Independence Avenue and 8th Street SW (628-4422); and Corcoran Gallery of Art, 17th Street and New York Avenue NW (638-3211). October 1 through November 27.