Negative Optic Electric Force, Positive Optic Electric Force (Primary Title)

Alfred Jensen, American, born Guatemala, 1903 - 1981 (Artist)

1975
American
oil on canvas
Overall: 70 × 140 in. (177.8 × 355.6 cm)
85.549.1-2

“The artist in me is not only seeking a renewal of worn out visual representations, but is as well engaged in the reestablishment of man’s lost ties with the universal laws of nature.” —Alfred Jensen

Emerging onto the New York art scene in the 1950s with his gestural painting style, Jensen seemed aligned with Abstract Expressionism. Yet Jensen was not a purely abstract artist. He filled his canvases with numbers, letters, and other visual signs that encouraged the viewer to “read” his paintings.

The concentric circles, repeated symbols, and mirroring of color in this work characterize Jensen’s diagrammatic style. He includes positive, negative, and neutral symbols to refer to the energy of electromagnetic fields mentioned in the title. The circular forms and structured color-play recall ancient cultures from Chinese to Mayan and their emphasis on dualities, such as light and dark, which Jensen believed to be the basis of all life.

Gift of the Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation
The Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation Collection, The Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, December 5, 1978 – January 8, 1979; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, March 22 – May 2, 1979; The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH, September 13 – November 4, 1979; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, TN, December 2, 1979 – January 27, 1980; Dupont Gallery, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA, February 18 – March 21, 1980; The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH, September 21 – November 9, 1980; Madison Art Center, Madison, WI, November 23, 1980 – January 18, 1981; Gibbes Art Gallery, Charleston, SC, October 15, 1981 – January 10, 1982

Alfred Jensen: Paintings and Diagrams from the Years 1957-77, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, January 15 – February 26, 1978; The New Museum, New York, NY, March 10 – April 21, 1978; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, May 5 – June 23, 1978; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA, and Department of Fine Arts Gallery, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, CO, July 3 – August 6, 1978; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, August 18 – October 1, 1978
Dichter, Claudia, et. al. Paul Laffoley: Secret Universe 2. Cologne, Germany: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2011. Exh. cat. p. 33, color ill.

Brandt, Frederick R., and Susan L. Butler. Late Twentieth Century Art: From the Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation. Richmond, VA: Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation, 1981. (No. 32, pp. 36-37, illus.)

Cathcart, Linda L. and Marcia Tucker. Alfred Jensen: Paintings and Diagrams from the Years 1957-77. Buffalo: Albright-Knox Gallery, 1978. (P. 77).
Collection of the artist, Glen Ridge, NJ; Purchased by the Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation in April of 1978; Gift to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in October of 1985.
©artist or artist’s estate

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