Alfred Jensen - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, November 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist, 1980

  • Exhibited

    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, December 8, 1965 - January 30, 1966
    Prague, American Embassy, Art in Embassies Program, May, 1967 - October, 1968
    Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Paintings and Diagrams of Alfred Jensen from the Years 1957 - 1977, January 15 - February 26, 1978, then traveled to New York, New Museum (March 10 - April 21, 1978), Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art (May 5 - June 23, 1978), Boulder, Department of Fine Arts Gallery, University of Colorado Museum (July 3 - August 6, 1978), San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (August 18 - October 1, 1978)

  • Literature

    Alfred Jensen: Paintings and Diagrams from the Years 1957 - 1977, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, 1978, pl. 26, p. 57 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "The edge of things, a profile, coupled with a past event, has always made me leap like an inspired diver off a board."
    Alfred Jensen, 1977

    Working in the 1960s, Alfred Jensen sought to express complex mathematical schemes through his artistic practice. The Tetractys, 1964, in its calculated design, is the product of such thinking. The present lot is a puzzle of vivid checkerboard designs. Three principle forms contain scores of lime green, crimson, saffron and aqua miniature squares. These forms reverberate against a background of thickly applied black and white paint. Influenced by Goethe's Theory of Colors, Jensen is known for selecting color systematically and applying paint directly from the tube. This direct application leaves a copious impasto texture on the surface. By suppressing all artistic decisions in favor of a larger logical system, Jensen creates paintings that are devoid of true stylistic taste or flair. Instead of privileging an individual’s expression, his works communicate a primeval effect of universal order.

    Traveling extensively during his lifetime and studying under Hans Hoffman in Munich, Jensen ultimately settled in New York City. After creating expressionist works for some time, Jensen eventually found himself in a more systematic, conceptual approach. He found inspiration for his diagrammatic works in scientific theories, astronomy, as well as ancient Chinese and Mayan culture. The present lot is determined by, and named after, a “tetractys” scheme. A “tetractys” or tetrad, is a triangular figure consisting of ten points arranged in four rows: one, two, three, and four points in each row. It is a mystical symbol that captivated the ancient mathematician Pythagoras. In The Tetractys this triangular form is iterated and inverted in the black and white portions of the painting. Jensen explodes this microcosmic system, and pairs it with a vibrant checkboard, so that it overwhelms the viewer entirely. Though resolutely flat, the composition buzzes with chromatic energy. The Tetractys, showcasing dissonant, unfamiliar optical patterns, achieves an entirely hypnotic effect.


The Tectractys

oil on canvas, in 3 joined canvases
52 x 122 in. (132.1 x 309.9 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "'The Tetractys' Painted in 1964 by Alfred Jensen" on the reverse of each element; further inscribed "Per I," "Per II," and "Per III" on the reverse of each respective element.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $197,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Day Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2014 11am