Center for the Arts

Vero Beach, FL



Broken Silences: The Collages of Paul Jenkins


Paul Jenkins is one of the premier artists of his generation. His work in acrylic on canvas of the 1960s and 1970s is well known to those versed in the art history of the latter part of the twentieth century, but it is his work in collage that will be the subject of the exhibition Broken Silences: The Collages of Paul Jenkins, a retrospective of Jenkins' work in the Holmes Gallery at the Center for the Arts continuing through Sunday, January 7, 2001.

One of the best indications of Jenkins' long-standing love of collage is his house in New York City, which has been his his winter home (his summers are spent in France) since the mid-1970s. In this four-story townhouse, walls, doors, cabinets and even a bathtub are covered with pages from books, Japanese prints, painted Tibetan mandalas, pieces of wood and parts of old hand tools. A permanent part of the house, these works form a backdrop for the artist's collection of his own paintings and those of his French and American colleagues, as well as, among other things, glass prisms, Tibetan drums, a rock crystal lingam, Chinese stirrups and knives and swords from every part of the world. (left: Phenomena Under the Green Umbrella, 1997, acrylic and collage on canvas with wood, 30 x 24 inches)

Jenkins's penchant for collage goes back forty-six years, when he began to collage the walls and doors of his first studio in Paris. The earliest works in the Center's exhibition include these doors, collaged between 1954-1958. Covered with Japanese prints, calligraphy on rice paper and placards purchased and found in the shops and streets of Paris, these collages were sometimes augmented later with acrylic paint. The doors were a part of Jenkins's studio for many years. When he left the studio in 1996, he took the doors with him, as well as a large freestanding work, "Hokusai Portal," 1954-1958, which will also be seen in the exhibition. (right: Phenomena Mercury Tibetan Flask, 1992, wood construction with acrylic, 19 1/4 x 20 inches)

Jenkins' "portable" collages, those created on paper and canvas, date back to "Egyptian Profile" of 1953, which is included in the exhibition. It is a work in gouache and ink on papyrus mounted on canvas. During the 1950s, Jenkins was also painting. He experimented with different types of paint, often combining on the same canvas oil, chrysochrome, and powdered pigments. Influenced by French Tascism and American Abstract Expressionism, the paintings led to the now well-known lyrical works of the 1960s in a then brand-new medium, acrylic paint. It was not until the late 1970s that Jenkins returned to collage. Included in the exhibition is "Phenomena Where the Winds Meet" of 1977, a two-panel work that features an acrylic painting on the left and a torn paper and acrylic paint collage on the right. (left: Phantom of Manhattan, 1998-1999, acrylic and collage on canvas, 36 x 24 inches)

The 1980s saw collage come into its own in Jenkins's oeuvre with such works as "Dynasty of Three" of 1984-1985. In this collage, a painting of a seated Chinese lady in court robes is flanked by skeletons from an anatomy textbook. Large rectangular shapes of paper in a symmetrical arrangement float over the trio, and behind all are the filmy veils of a Jenkins painting on canvas that show through the paper layers. Rather than being surreal, the effect is formal and delicately elegant.

The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Bessemer Trust Company, Mr. and Mrs. James Balog, and Mrs. Richard M. Ross. Additional support has been provided by Mr. and Mrs. Marvin G. Messex.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/27/11

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