LAMA BLOG

Dan Christensen: A Fresh Approach

The vibrant paintings of Dan Christensen (1942-2007) have drawn comparison to artists like Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland and his work is most often categorized
as Color Field painting. Christensen was born in Cozad, Nebraska, and was inspired to become an artist after encountering the work of Jackson Pollock during a trip to Denver. He went on to graduate with a B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1964 and promptly moved to New York City to embark on his career. His first solo exhibition was held at Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York in 1967.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 293, Dan Christensen, Atlantic Frost, 1969
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design

Renowned for his innovative use of brooms and squeegees, Christensen’s dynamic methods echo the techniques of Abstract Expressionist action painting. This unique approach resulted in numerous distinctive and energetic paintings, dominated by exuberant colors and vibrating swirls. The artist continued this formal experimentation with his series of spray loop paintings, made in the 1960s, which he produced using a spray gun. This was an increasingly popular technique at the time, as can be seen in the work of John Altoon and Billy Al Bengston. The shimmering surface of these paintings drew the attention of art critic Clement Greenberg, the foremost theorist of Abstract Expressionism, who described Christensen as “one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.”

With its still, at planes, Atlantic Frost (1969) departs from the frenetic energy of the spray loop works and marks Christensen’s return to minimalism. Painted in bold rectangular sections of black, blue, and murky green, this gridded work comes from the artist’s Plaid series, referencing the familiar blocky pattern. The work’s title and its muted, natural tones are reminiscent of an aerial landscape view, though Christensen’s work was deliberately at and non-referential. While Atlantic Frost is comprised of loosely geometric forms Christensen did not insist on strict measurements and thus did not tape the lines between his forms, thus foregrounding the exigencies of the painting process. Like his artistic icon, Jackson Pollock, Christensen worked from the floor to create this work, laying unstretched canvas on the ground and applying paint using house-paint rollers.

James Monte, a Whitney Museum of Art curator, has hailed Christensen’s Plaid series as momentous within the history of post-war abstract painting: “Much of minimal art in the 1960s and 1970s depended on a repetitive dullness in color, structure and layout. [Christensen] introduced a freshly conceived approach to geometric configuration, a necessary antidote to that all-consuming dullness.”

Christensen’s work is included in numerous prominent public collections including Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He was the recipient of numerous awards throughout his lifetime including the National Endowment Grant, 1968; a Guggenheim Fellowship Theodoran Award, 1969; a Gottlieb Foundation Grant, 1986, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1992.

Lot Information:
Dan Christensen
Atlantic Frost
1969
Enamel on canvas
Signed, titled, and dated verso; retains Pasadena Art Museum exhibition label on wooden stretcher verso
Canvas: 75″ x 50″; Frame: 76.5″ x 51.5″
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Exhibited: “Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Rowan Collection,” Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, September 15-November 15, 1970
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design 

Peters, Lisa. “Dan Christensen-Artist-1942-2007.” Dan Christensen. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. Dan Christensen: The Plaid Paintings. Perf. Ira Spanierman and Elaine Grove. Spanierman Modern, 11 Nov. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

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