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.
across reverse of each of twelve canvases, with Roman numeral and size changing for each panel [panel nine mislabelled IV]; number and size given here for first panel: Title: "Twelve Events in a Dual Universe." Per I. / Size 60" x 48." / Painted in 1978 by / Alfred Jensen.
Marks and Labels
The artist [1903-1981]; his estate; (PaceWildenstein, New York); purchased 10 April 2007 by NGA.
- Arts New Jersey 2: Alfred Jensen--The New Jersey Years, 1972-1981, Newark Museum, 1994, no cat. (only six panels shown: nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11).
- Alfred Jensen: Concordance, Dia Center for the Arts, New York; Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2001-2003, no. 10, repro. no. 12.
- Alfred Jensen: The Number Paintings, PaceWildenstein, New York, 2006, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, London, 2013, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Weiss, Jeffrey. "Collectors Committee Acquisitions. Works by Alfred Jensen and Robert Morris." National Gallery of Art Bulletin, no. 36 (Spring 2007): 26-27, repro.