New York

Neil Jenney

Gagosian Gallery (21)

This retrospective of Neil Jenney’s “bad paintings” makes it clear that they’re anything but bad. The ironic label referred to the fact that they were figurative in the late ’60s, a time when it was de rigueur to be abstract, but “bad” could just as well have pointed to his gestures, which seemed methodical and self-conscious next to such heroic models as Pollock’s and de Kooning’s. Indeed, Jenney’s busy, broad handling appears to mock the Abstract Expressionists: In contrast to their bold displays of spontaneity and nerve, Jenney’s gestures, for all their vigor, seem neatly, even systematically applied.

Jenney was a conceptual painter en avant the name. It’s as if he paints the idea of a gesture, rather than making the gesture itself. He uses his controlled strokes as building blocks, composing them into a kind of wall or ground into which the figure—another structure of gestures—is

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