Among America’s foremost abstract painters of the late twentieth century, Dan Christensen was devoted over the course of a forty-year career to exploring the limits, range, and possibilities of paint and pictorial form. A leading figure in the Color Field movement, he both carried on the legacy of this approach while stepping outside of it. Drawing from a wide variety of Modernist sources, he used many idiosyncratic techniques, often employing methods more commonly associated with the action painting methods of Abstract Expressionism.
In the late 1960s, Christensen’s art was championed by important curators, critics, and art dealers. Many of his important paintings were placed in major museum collections throughout the United States. In 2009, his multifaceted oeuvre was showcased in the traveling retrospective, Dan Christensen: Forty Years of Painting, organized by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City, Missouri). The exhibition made a convincing case for a heightened appreciation of Christensen’s work and his significant place in postwar abstraction.
A few artists had used the spray gun before Christensen adopted it and delved more fully into the medium than his predecessors, seeking to explore the full range of its capacities for painting. When the artist returned to the spray gun in the late 1980s, he looked back to his early sprays of the 1960s, re-exploring the union of color and form, line and paint. As in our example, instead of looping the spray across the surface, he set spherical shapes in auras of light. In the first few years of the new millennium, Christensen revisited and reinvented earlier stylistic dimensions of his art. In late calligraphic stains he used the drizzle and dragged marks of his Pollock-influenced art of the late 1960s, but with more openness and pleasure in the spirit of the automatic works of Miró. The lines loop and re-loop with exuberance but also with calligraphic fluidity.