Dan Christensen, Serpens, 1968
Acrylic on canvas, 112 x 173.5 inches
Courtesy of Spanierman Modern, NY
May 15 – August 30, 2009
For more than forty years, American artist Dan Christensen—long associated with the Color Field movement—experimented with colors, shapes, and forms in his large-scale paintings. Featuring 35 of the artist’s works of art from 1966 to 2006, the exhibition Dan Christensen: Forty Years of Painting is the first comprehensive Museum retrospective of the artist’s work since his death in 2007. After its showing in Kansas City, the exhibition travels to the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where it will on view October 23, 2009–January 31, 2010.
This survey of Christensen’s paintings documents the artist’s quest to understand the possibilities of color, paint, and pictorial space. Though long associated with the Color Field movement, Christensen’s experimentation with tools and techniques makes him resistant to any one label or category but does place him among this country’s most ambitious abstract and gestural painters. Art critic Clement Greenberg called his work “post-painterly abstraction” and said, in 1990, “Dan Christensen is one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.”
Born in 1942, Christensen was raised in Cozad, Nebraska. A 1964 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, the artist moved to New York in the ’60s after a brief stop at the University of Indiana. Once in New York, he found immediate critical acclaim for the originality of his “ribbon” and “loop” paintings, created by using a spray gun. His work was featured in annual exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and he was awarded both a National Endowment Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
During the 1970s, he began experimenting with new tools, paints, and techniques, and created geometric color-field “plaid” paintings. His style continued to evolve in the ’80s with the “scrape” and “calligraphic” paintings, and in the ’90s with his “spot” paintings—some of the most celebrated of his career. His later work reveals a return to the fluid, rhythmic loops that pulse with life.
Christensen’s works of art are in public and private collections around the world, and paintings for this exhibition were culled from his estate; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Saint Louis Art Museum; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE; and private collections.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, including essays by New York-based critic/curator Karen Wilkin, former gallerist Douglas Drake, and Sharon L. Kennedy from the Sheldon Museum of Art, as well as a foreword by exhibition curator Rachael Blackburn Cozad, director and CEO of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.