Paul Jenkins

American | Abstract Expressionism

b. 1923

Paul Jenkins is an American artist whose paintings represent the spirit, vitality, and invention of post World War II American abstraction.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923, Jenkins became a student of Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League, where he met Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Barnett Newman. In the 1950s, Jenkins achieved prominence both in New York and Europe for his early abstractions. Throughout the 60s, his work was shown worldwide, at major galleries and museums in Tokyo, London, New York, Paris, and Amsterdam.

Working first with oil paints and later watercolors and acrylic, Jenkins poured paint directly on the canvas, allowing it to drip, bleed, and pool. He referred to himself as "an abstract phenomenist". Influenced by Goethe's color theories, he began to preface the titles of his works with the word "Phenomena" followed by a key word or phrase. In 1959, he began using an ivory knife to help direct the flow of paint. A film on Jenkins' technique titled The Ivory Knife: Paul Jenkins at Work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art and received the Golden Eagle Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1966.

Jenkins died in Manhattan in 2012.

Paul Jenkins' work can be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the National Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California.