Opening Reception: Friday, June 14, 5 – 7pm
On view from June 14 – July 14, 2013 at its Railyard location, LewAllen Galleries presents Dan Christensen: The Orb Paintings. Christensen was at the epicenter of post-Abstract Expressionist painting in America. With a career that spanned more than 40 years, Christensen pioneered some of the most innovative new directions in abstract painting during the period from the mid-1960s until his death in 2007. He is considered one of the leading figures of what is known as Post-Painterly Abstraction, the predominant tendency in non-representational painting following the Ab Ex movement emphasizing “openness” and “clarity” of color applied to flat surfaces - in stark response to the dense, packed, encrusted canvasses of the period that preceded it.
Christensen produced the Orbs series in the late 80s and 90s, and it represents a culmination of many of the Post-Painterly techniques and characteristics that he innovated. These included the use of spray guns to modulate paint application, light-inflected color vibrancy, contrasting halos of tiny atomized droplets, controlled runs of thinned paint and expressive but not overpowering brushwork. The Orb paintings evince the overall lightness and joy in their virtuosic creation that helped to make Christensen a leading figure of post-Ab Ex painting.
Never departing from a resolute dedication to the basic aesthetic principles of Modernism and the capacity of paint to extend the power of abstraction to animate thought and emotion, Christensen continuously experimented with new tools and materials that had enormous influence in reinvigorating the potential of the medium for artistic creation - even as others around him declared painting to be “dead.” As the Orb paintings were being introduced in New York, the leading critic of the time and proponent of these new tendencies in abstraction, Clement Greenberg, famously pronounced Christensen “one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.”
With work in prominent private collections and leading American museums, Christensen’s place is secure in American art history and as a visionary in color abstraction. Receiving early acclaim for his sprayed “loop” paintings, he was included - before the age of 28 - in two Whitney Biennials and had received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
The Orb series became one of the most sought-after for collectors attracted to the spectacular pulsating auras surrounding chromatically vibrant oval forms that produce a nearly cosmic effect – what critic Holland Cotter, writing for The New York Times, called “little poems of hazy planet-like globes floating in what looks like galactic space.” In the series, orbs fluctuate between pure circles and oval spheres and appear to luminously vibrate on the canvas. The paintings engage issues of color, shape and placement and the development of spatial relationships between the two or three concentric circles and layers of iridescent and radiant acrylic paint. The spray gun aesthetic allowed Christensen to create engaging tension between surface and depth and a dynamic interconnection between hovering orb and encompassing ground.
The Orb paintings have been much written-about since their creation more than 20 years ago, evoking diverse critical speculation concerning the cosmos, atomic science, ancient Greek metaphysical references to the Music of the Spheres and harmonics of the Universe, and spiritual transcendence. Their chromatic intensity, iridescence and interplay with light signify Christensen’s acclaimed enthusiasms for the power of paint, color and defined structured to carry forward abstraction’s ability to inspire joy.
To view the online show catalog, visit www.lewallengalleries.com. For photos or more information, please contact Taylor Hughes at 505-988-3250, or [email protected].
Elaine Grove, the artist’s widow, will be present
LewAllen Galleries at the Railyard