Bill Jensen / LUOHAN (PERSONA) / 2005-2006 / Oil on linen / 28 x 23 inches / © Bill Jensen. Courtesy ofthe artist and Cheim & Read Gallery
I read two reviews of the paintings of Bill Jensen, a painter living here in NYC and an instructor at the New York Studio School, over the past month – Bill Jensen Notes from the Loggia by John Yau in the Brooklyn Rail and Art in Review; Bill Jensen By Martha Schwendener in the NYTimes. InJohn Yau’s review in the Brooklyn Rail of Bill Jensen‘s recent painting exhibit at Danese Gallery here in New York City. He discusses the centrality of drawing to Jensen’s practice and his debt to both Chinese calligraphy and Abstract Expressionism, both important sources of inspiration for my own work. Yau also goes on to state that Jensen is, “…exploring a territory that is connected to very divergent aspects of Abstract Expressionism (Ad Reinhardt, James Brooks and Jackson Pollock)—lightless light, the interplay between order and disorder, and gesture as form. In all three areas of this territory, which abut and overlap, larger chaotic forces emerge as the shaping feature.” For Schwendener this means that, “Bill Jensen has never settled down with one style,” a trait usually frustrating to galleryists and historians.
A frequent topic of conversation in the studio is what we refer to as the two schools of abstract painting – on the one side there are the gestural, expressionist painters and on the other side are the geometrical, color-field, lyrical abstactionists, and minimalists. This leads to a lot of useless conversations about left brain vs. right brain, emotion vs. intellect, expression vs. conceptual, etc., that really have nothing to do with painting, and devolve into figuring out which camp you belong to and sticking to it. However, I am more interested in mining the territory between the two poles and Jensen’s paintings are a great example of the many possibilities available. In his work we see both gestural marks, bimorphic or automatistic shapes, as well as brilliant colors and transparencies, shifting planes and moving spacial relationships. Jensen will lay in a gesture in a rich pure color opaque color and then come back and run a transparent right over top. Or lay in a thick opaque colorful gesture and then while the paint is still wet scrape it to create a film with transparent and opaque areas.
Finally, Schwendener indicates that while Jensen paints in oil he makes his own paint, allowing him to regulate its viscosity. I think this is a particularly important point for painters and something I have tried to bring into my own practice (I’ll talk more about this in the future). The ubiquity of artist supplies has lead to a plethora of easily available tube paints and painting mediums, the quality of which varies from brand to brand. While this frees up the artist from having to spend copious amounts of time and energy grinding pigments, cooking mediums, and making paint, it brings a certain uniformity and homogeneity to color and surface of paintings. Making ones one paint not only allows the artist to control the viscosity but to control pigment content, pigment mixtures, fillers, etc., as well as the drying time, finish and whole lot of other qualities that come into play in the process of painting. Jensen’s work shows us how important mastering the craft of painting really enables us to explore the limitless complexities of painting.Tags: pigment, New York, oil painting, New York City, abstract expressionism, Reinhardt
April 2, 2008 No Comments