Paul Jenkins New York Color Field Painter Dies At 88

Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins the post abstract expressionist and ‘Color Field’ painter has died in New York age 88. He was widely associated with the Color Field movement of painting, a style of abstraction that emerged in New York during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to Abstract Expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering Abstract Expressionists. Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.” During the late 1950s and 1960s, Color field painters emerged in Great Britain, Canada, Washington, DC and the West Coast of the United States using formats of stripes, targets, simple geometric patterns and references to landscape imagery and to nature.

Dr. Louis A. Zona said of his work: “Jenkin’s paintings have come to represent the spirit, vitality, and invention of post World War American abstraction.They employed an unorthodox approach to paint application, Jenkins’ fame is as much identified with the process of controlled paint-pouring and canvas manipulation as with the gem-like veils of transparent and translucent color which have characterized his work since the late 1950s”.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923, Jenkins later moved to Youngstown, Ohio. As a teenager, Jenkins worked in a ceramics factory, where he was first exposed to color intensity and the creation of form. Drawn to New York, he became a student of Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League and ultimately became associated with the Abstract Expressionists, inspired in part by the “cataclysmic challenge of Pollock and the total metaphysical consumption of Mark Tobey.” An ongoing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, the study of the I Ching, along with the writings of Carl Jung prompted Jenkins’ turn toward inward reflection and mysticism which have dominated his aesthetic as well as his life. Jenkins work was always more commercial than many of his contemporaries. He was popular with collectors internationally to the point that Roberta Smith wrote in The Times;”Mr. Jenkins’s paintings were “more a popular idea of abstract art than the real thing” and “too gorgeous for their own good.” He died after a short illness,his wife, Suzanne stated.


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