PAUL JENKINS (1923-2012) "Phenomena Arch The Sun, 1986 watercolor 22 x 30" image / 27 x 35"
A colorful Abstract Expressionist who came of age during the heyday of the New York School and for several decades carried on its highly physical tradition of manipulating paint and canvas, died on June 9 in Manhattan, where he lived and had continued to paint until his death.
In the late 1940s, joining a wave of aspiring painters moving to New York, Mr. Jenkins used the G.I. Bill to study at the Art Students League and soon met Jackson Pollock and befriended Mark Rothko. In 1953 he resettled in Paris, but maintained a lifelong connection with New York.
Early on he adopted a tactile, chance-driven method of painting that privileged almost every technique over brushwork. Dribbling paint Pollock-like onto loose canvasses, he allowed it to roll, pool and bleed, and he sometimes kneaded and hauled on the canvas — “as if it were a sail,” he said once. His favorite tool for many years was an elegant ivory knife, which he used to guide the flow of paint.
The billowy, undulating results could look like psychedelic landscapes or what Stuart Preston, reviewing his work in The New York Times in 1958, described as “Abstract Expressionist rococo.” Influenced by the theories of Jung and by the visionary imagery of Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau, Mr. Jenkins described himself as an “abstract phenomenist,” and from the 1960s on, all his paintings’ titles began with the word “Phenomena.” “I have conversations with them,” he said of his paintings, “and they tell me what they want to be called.”