Phenomena Panning Gold
Phenomena Panning for Gold presents us with Paul Jenkin’s unique, unorthodox methods of paint application. His methods were in the same pioneering vein of his good friend, Jackson Pollock. Only, as Jenkins himself once said, he painted “…like a crapshooter rolling the dice, utilizing past experience and my knowledge of the odds. It’s a big gamble, and that’s why I love it.”
Paul Jenkins’ approach to painting was unorthodox. Jenkins experimented with paint: his technique involved pouring paint and directing the pours with exceptional skill. One of the only tools he actually used to create his masterpieces was a favorite ivory knife, which he utilized to control the paint as it flowed down the canvas.
Jenkins spent his teenage years in Youngstown, Ohio, where his parents ran the Struthers Journal (now called Hometown Journal). After serving in WWII, Jenkins used the G.I. bill to study art with Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League of New York. There, he befriended Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, and Barnett Newman during the Abstract Expressionist movement. However, his desire to create new ways of creating work pushed him past the “restrictions” of Expressionism.
In his youth, Jenkins apprenticed in clay and ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute where, undoubtedly, the influence of the ceramics’ glazes later pushed Jenkins to experiment with applying paint to a canvas.
Jenkins liked to call himself an “abstract phenomist” and thus began the title of each work with “Phenomena.” The rest of the title came to Jenkins in, as he said, “conversations with [each composition]… they tell me what they want to be called.”
The Butler Institute has been graced with a number of outstanding examples of Jenkins’ paintings, spanning across five decades.
His paintings can be seen in the Hollywood movie, “An Unmarried Woman,” in which the main character, an artist (played by actor Alan Bates) was supposed to be the creator of the artwork shown in the film.