Object Image

Twelve Events in a Dual Universe

During the 1960s and 1970s the fate and future of painting was a hotly contested subject on the New York art scene. It is especially telling, then, that Alfred Jensen's paintings were acclaimed during this period by two of the very artists—Donald Judd and Allan Kaprow—who were otherwise leading the assault on painting in favor of new art forms such as minimal sculpture and assemblage. Yet as Judd, writing in 1963, put it simply: "Jensen is great. He is one of the best painters in the United States."

The formal qualities that make Jensen so significant as a postwar painter are fully on display in Twelve Events in a Dual Universe. On the one hand, the painting demonstrates Jensen's longstanding exploration of color theory, and thus engages in critical artistic dialogue with the work of important early-twentieth-century artists such as Robert Delaunay, Paul Klee, and Josef Albers. On the other hand, one can see here another set of interests—number systems, grid patterns, and chance structures—that so strongly spoke to the younger generation of artists of which Judd and Kaprow were a part. When encountered in person, Jensen's paintings are striking for their use of paint as both form and material. Chromatically vibrant and sensuously thick, paint in these works is equally visual and tactile.

Credit: Gift of the Collectors Committee

1978
Oil on canvas
274.3 x 731.5cm
2007.35.1
Image and text © National Gallery of Art, 2020

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National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
Permanent collection