New York

Paul Jenkins

Martha Jackson Gallery

Paul Jenkins’ biggest difficulty is that we cannot look at his paintings and not think that Morris Louis’ are better. In both, pigment is spilled onto the virgin canvas; in both, the control of the result involves the careful handling of the canvas itself as much as the paint. But the works of Jenkins have, by comparison, always wound up looking too pictorial or even too graphic-designed. This is because Jenkins’ forms can so often be read as motifs fixed onto an inert ground, like butterflies pinned to mounts. Or else, when they do seem spatial, the space seems inappropriately illusionistic. By the same token, Louis’ forms are undetachable from their ground; their color-space is tautly continuous with the canvas membrane, as though the colors generated some kind of topological bulge that yet remained flush, whereas Jenkins’ forms either bang against that membrane or dissolve through it.

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