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Dan Christensen - Artist - 1942-2007

“Dan Christensen is one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.” - Clement Greenberg

 

Among America’s leading abstract artists, Dan Christensen was devoted over the course of forty years to exploring the limits, range, and possibilities of paint and pictorial form.  Although his art belongs within the category defined by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg as Color Field or Post-Painterly Abstraction, he both carried on the legacy of this approach while stepping outside of it, through drawing from a wide variety of Modernist sources, using many idiosyncratic techniques, and employing methods more commonly associated with the action painting techniques of Abstract Expressionism.  The result is a distinctive body of artwork that is original, surprising, and filled with joy, exuberance, and pleasure in the act of painting.

Born in Cozad, Nebraska, in 1942, the son of a farmer and truck driver, Dan Christensen chose to become an artist when, as a teenager, he saw the work of Jackson Pollock on a trip to Denver.  After receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri, in 1964, he moved to New York City.  His “spray loop” paintings, produced by using a spray paint gun, were a fascinating embodiment of the reductive abstract tendencies in 1960s American art, and of the interest of the time in innovative applications of new techniques.  With their powerful ribbon-like configurations, and shimmering allover surface effects, these works won the attention of Greenberg, who became an enthusiastic supporter of Christensen’s art. Dan Christensen had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1967. Two years later he was given his first one-person show at the Andre Emmerich Gallery, joining this important showcase for color-field painting, where works by artists such as Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Helen Frankenthaler were also shown. Christensen soon started to be invited to participate in major museum shows, including the Whitney Annuals in New York and the Corcoran Gallery’s Biennials, in Washington, D.C.  From the 1970s until his death in 2007, Dan Christensen was unrelenting in his exploration of new techniques as well as in his return in new ways to treat forms that had held his attention in the past. 

In 2001 the unique approach to line and shape of Dan Christensen was highlighted in the survey of his art held at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio.  He received several awards, including a National Endowment Grant, 1968, a Guggenheim Fellowship Theodoran Award, 1969, a Gottlieb Foundation Grant, 1986, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, 1992. Christensen's art is included in many important public collections, including The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Eversen Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; the Albrecht Art Gallery, St. Joseph, Missouri; the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; the Denver Museum of Art; the Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta, Canada; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Texas; Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Ludwig Collection in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; the Robert Rowan Collection, Pasadena, California; St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri; the Seattle Art Museum, Washington; the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; the Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia; the Toledo Museum, Ohio; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 

Dan Christensen, who began visiting eastern Long Island in the 1960s, lived as an artist in East Hampton until his death in 2007.

 

Essay by Lisa L. Peters used with permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC