Artist’s Reception: Friday, April 29, 5:30 – 7:30pm
Santa Fe, NM—LewAllen Galleries is pleased to announce Bars & Scrapes, a major exhibition of paintings and works on paper created in two pivotal periods in the career of Dan Christensen (1942-2007). Heralded by Clement Greenberg as “one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends” and recently praised in The New York Times by Roberta Smith as a painter whose art “hold[s] its own among works by Jackson Pollock or Sigmar Polke, to name but two,” Bars & Scrapes reexamines and fortifies the legacy of an artist continuing to provoke generative critical and curatorial reappraisals.
The exhibition derives its title from two distinct series that constitute integral components of the artist’s aesthetic and conceptual achievements. Christensen’s Minimalist Bar series, created from 1966 through 1967, represents his first significant body of work upon graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute. Vigorously championed by Richard Bellamy – the founder of Green Gallery, which expanded the boundaries of visual culture in presenting the inaugural exhibitions of Judd, Flavin, Oldenburg and others – works from the Bar Serie have been included in two Whitney Museum of American Art annuals and have been accessioned into the permanent collections of several leading public institutions. Untitled (1967), which finds inclusion in this exhibition, has previously been on view in the Museum of Modern Art.
Adopting technologies that antagonized the prevailing visual logics of the art of his time, Christensen’s Bar series employed rollers and spray guns to catalyze a thorough redefinition of the formal possibilities of the Modernist grid. Establishing a monochrome ground over which he would tape small rectangles he termed “bars,” the artist would then exercise an alternative mode of paint application to accrete additional layers of a single color. This highly individuated process would generate subtly modulated contrasts of tone between the paintings’ backgrounds and their
overlying gridded rectangles – effecting subtle shimmers and a sense of implied movement that called into question the perceived stability of an artwork’s perceptual effects.
Christensen’s Scrape series, executed between 1984 and 1988, comprises the second major body of work to be presented in this exhibition. Suggesting that the Bar paintings effected more than a perfunctory influence on the artist’s trajectory, the Scrape works extend his engagement with broadening the enunciative range of abstraction by means of an acute focus on the possibilities of exotic materials and new relations to the canvas. Notably, these were among the very first paintings to recognize the singular optical properties inherent to the “interference paints” developed in 1984 by Golden Paint Company. Initially made available only to Dan Christensen, Jules Olitski, and Kenneth Noland, these polymer emulsion paints incorporated titanium-coated mica flakes – an addition that contributes their opalescent sheen as well as a tendency to oscillate between complementary colors as variations in spectatorial position and ambient lighting occur. As a result, these works respond to and register our world as much as they relay their own.
In conjunction with its pioneering embrace of novel technologies, the Scrape series manifests a profound shift in Christensen’s compositional strategies. Here, the artist amplifies the signature gesturality of his art – popularly recognized for the simultaneous delicacy and dynamism of its sprayed loops and graceful ribbons of saturated hues – by complementing these co-present visual modes with deep scoriations raked into pools of paint fortified with newly-developed gels and thickeners. Freighted with processual self-reflexivity and exemplifying the productive capacities of reductive gestures, the artist’s excavatory scrapings complicate distinctions between figure and ground to reflect on the language of painting as one that potentially conceals its past with every new disclosure.
Dan Christensen was born in Cozad, Nebraska, in 1942. The artist received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1964 and began exhibiting in New York shortly in 1966. Achieving spectacular success at an early age, Christensen participated in two Whitney annuals before the age of 26. He is the recipient of numerous important distinctions, including a National Endowment Grant in 1968 and the Guggenheim Fellowship Theodora Award in 1969. The subject of significant ongoing critical and curatorial recognition, his works have featured in more than 60 solo exhibitions as well as hundreds of significant group shows internationally. Christensen’s art is included in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Albright-Knox Gallery; the Hirshhorn Museum of the Smithsonian Institution; the Butler Institute of American Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Seattle Art Museum; and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, among numerous others.