Los Angeles

Dan Christensen

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

A more modest, but more nourishing précis of color bolts the scaffolding of Dan Christensen’s new work. Christensen, the senior member of a Kansas City color-painter group, has made an abrupt transition from his previous canvases employing ropy, colored lines sprayed onto intensely chromatic grounds. These seven moderately sized, glossy, medium-thick(creamy) paintings of color-blocks, framed in the singular gold edge of the late ’50s, have a flavor possibly describable as Neo-Post-Painterly Abstraction: while everybody else is going bigger, rawer, bubblier, Christensen cuts against the grain—smaller, slicker, architectural. Most use five colors, some only three and one six, arranged in conspicuously free-hand abutting triangles something like earlier Jack Bush. Although push-pull depth is manifest, the immediate effect is of collision on the surface of the picture plane; although these are rectangles, the minimal convexities, the hard-but-wavy edge indicate quite directional shapes. Christensen utilizes mostly hue contrast, with one or two strong differences in value “anchoring” the painting; most of the enamels are “tube” colors, with a few tertiaries. The best picture is about seven feet high and consists of a flat blue on the right, which descends to a medium red horizontal occupying the entire bottom edge; above the red are stacked an ochre block (reaching the left-hand edge), a light green rectangle (not reaching), and a vertical orange bar filling the gap. In this painting the overt indication of scheme succumbs to a suspicion of the arbitrary; the colors, however, seem “natural” to their individual placements, and the mix is flat, simple and strong. In spite of the quality of the paintings (very good), Christensen paints in a cul-de-sac—which is, of course, where the better artists always seem to be.

Peter Plagens