Selected by Ray Waterhouse

DAN CHRISTENSEN, Blues for Kenny, 1997


We are pleased to present a work by one of America’s leading 2nd generation abstract artists, offered at a special price. Blues for Kenny is a remarkable work by Christensen: its vibrant colors are enhanced by the shapes of concentric circles, and this combination of color and form creates a very powerful effect of presence for the viewer by seemingly expanding the artwork beyond the flat surface of canvas. It can be viewed by appointment at our Upper East Side gallery. 


Dan Christensen was devoted over the course of forty years to exploring the limits, range, and possibilities of paint and pictorial form. Although his art belongs within the category defined by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg as Color Field or Post-Painterly Abstraction, he carried on the legacy of this approach while stepping outside of it, through drawing from a wide variety of Modernist sources, using many idiosyncratic techniques, while employing methods more commonly associated with the action painting techniques of Abstract Expressionism. The result is a distinctive body of artwork that is original, surprising, and filled with joy, exuberance, and pleasure in the act of painting. 


Following the traditions of Henri Matisse, Stuart Davis, and Robert Rauschenberg, the artist dedicated Blues for Kenny to Jazz. The title is a reference to Midnight Blue - a 1963 album by guitarist Kenny Burrell. This album was included into NPR’s "Basic Jazz Library", described as "one of the great jazzy blues records" and referred to the best album to discovering Burrell’s signature 'Blue Note sound'. By making this music reference in the title of the painting, Dan Christensen offers us a special viewing experience by providing a soundtrack for his artwork.


Born in Cozad, Nebraska, in 1942 to a family of farmers, Dan Christensen chose to become an artist when, as a teenager, he saw the work of Jackson Pollock on a trip to Denver. After receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1964, he moved to New York City. Shortly after, Christensen produced his first “spray loop” paintings - a fascinating embodiment of the reductive abstract tendencies in 1960s American art, and of the interest of the time in innovative applications of new techniques. With their powerful ribbon-like configurations, and shimmering all-over surface effects, these works won the attention of Greenberg, who became an enthusiastic supporter of Christensen’s art. Greenberg noted: “Dan Christensen is one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.”


Dan Christensen had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1967. Two years later he was given his first one-person show at the Andre Emmerich Gallery, joining this important showcase for color-field painting, where works by artists such as Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Helen Frankenthaler were also shown. Christensen soon started to be invited to participate in major museum shows, including the Whitney Annuals in New York and the Corcoran Gallery’s Biennials, in Washington, D.C. From the 1970s until his death in 2007, Dan Christensen was unrelenting in his exploration of new techniques as well as in his return in new ways to treat forms that had held his attention in the past. In 2001, the unique approach to line and shape of Dan Christensen was highlighted in the survey of his art held at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio. He received several awards, including a National Endowment Grant, 1968, a Guggenheim Fellowship Theodoran Award, 1969, a Gottlieb Foundation Grant, 1986, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, 1992. Christensen's art is included in many important public and private collections.


DAN CHRISTENSEN (American, 1942-2007)

Blues for Kenny, 1997

Acrylic on canvas

54 x 54 in / 137 x 137 cm



August 31, 2020