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Paul Jenkins in the 1960s and 1970s: Space, Color and Light

Apr 10 - Aug 22 2010

UB Anderson Gallery

Seeking to sustain translucency and increase density in the color overlays, Jenkins first worked in the new water-based acrylic in 1960 and it soon became his preferred medium for painting on canvas. As Alfred Frankenstein wrote in a review of the artist’s 1971-1972 American retrospective held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: “Paul Jenkins is one of those who were selected by fate to come into their own with the introduction of the acrylic medium. His mature work is inconceivable except in terms of acrylic, with its fluidity, its acquiescence in unconventional techniques, and its special range of luminosity in color” (A Unity of Man and Materials, San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 1972).

Contributing to the luminosity of his paintings is the fact that Jenkins primes his canvases, allowing his poured pigments to pool and flow on the surface rather than soak in. Jenkins developed many tools and approaches to paint application and, in 1958, he acquired an ivory knife and began to use it to guide the flow of paint. A documentary film was made about the artist and his process, The Ivory Knife, produced by Red Parrot—the Martha Jackson film company that documented artists in their studios and artist interviews—which received the Gold Eagle Award in the 1966 Venice Film Festival.

Since 1959 Jenkins has titled his distinctive abstractions Phenomena followed by a terse word or phrase. As the artist stated in an interview with poet and art critic Jean Cassou in 1963: “Titles for me are like names on a map of the artist’s world. I try to find the identity word that will secure an attitude toward a painting rather than provoke a visual object that the eye will seek out.”

Jenkins’ work has been consistently shown both in New York and internationally. Martha Jackson, mother of David Anderson, first met the artist in Paris in 1954 and organized his first solo exhibition in New York in 1956. This began a longstanding relationship with the gallery that continued through 1977. UB Anderson Gallery holds the Martha Jackson and David Anderson Galleries Archives that comprise an extensive chronology of the years 1960 to 1979. Space, Color & Light is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an essay by Sandra H. Olsen, Ph.D., Director, UB Art Galleries. Selected from the artist’s collection, many of the works in this exhibition have not been seen since their debut in New York, Paris or London until their recent showing at D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc., New York (May 9–July 15, 2009).