Paul Jenkins: Phenomenal
phe·nom·e·non | fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän , -nən
plural phenomena fi-ˈnä-mə-nə , -ˌnä or phenomenons
1 plural phenomena : an observable fact or event
2 plural phenomena
a: an object or aspect known through the senses rather than by thought or intuition
b: a temporal or spatiotemporal object of sensory experience as distinguished from a noumenon
c: a fact or event of scientific interest susceptible to scientific description and explanation
3 a: a rare or significant fact or event
b: plural phenomenons : an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person, thing, or occurrence
If there was ever painter that could literally encompass every definition of the word “phenomenon”, it is Paul Jenkins. Part of the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement, Jenkins was renowned for his technique of controlled paint pouring and use of translucent colors. His paintings drew on wide range of philosophies from Gurdjieff to Goethe, Jung to Zen Buddhism, astrology to alchemy, and all of which inspired him to preface the titles of his works with the word “Phenomena,” followed by an evocative word or phrase.
Jenkins remarked of his painting process, “I try to paint like a crapshooter throwing dice, utilizing past experience and my knowledge of the odds. It’s a big gamble, and that’s why I love it.” Perhaps not such a gamble, as Jenkins’s favorite tool was a dull ivory knife that he used to guide the paint. But this combination of chance and control reveals paintings of dazzling depth and beauty with their sinuous seams and arcs of colors, in other words, a phenomenon.
Paul Jenkins was born in 1923 in Kansas City, Missouri where, growing up, he met Frank Lloyd Wright who recommended Jenkins take up a career in agriculture over art. Like many others, Jenkins used his G.I. Bill to move to New York to study art; he studied at the Arts League of New York under Yasuo Kuniyoshi and in the city, met and became friends with Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Barnett Newman and other abstract expressionists. Within this storied group, Jenkins’s works more closely follow the color field artists like Newman, Morris Louis, and Helen Frankenthaler.
This virtual exhibition brings together paintings from the early 1960s to the 1970s and provides a glimpse into the phenomenal world of Paul Jenkins. Not objects to be analyzed, these paintings are to be experienced, the color and movement washing over the viewer, guided by the suggestive titles. Equal parts painter, mystic, and magician, Jenkins materializes phenomenal, sensory objects.
Did you know… that Paul Jenkins was friends with Willem de Kooning and even took over de Kooning’s loft near Union Square in New York City. Jenkins lived in the loft from 1963 until 2000.