Extended through January 29, 2022
I’m governed by nature. Anything I do, I want it to feel natural.
Gagosian is pleased to present paintings by Neil Jenney from his recent series Modern Africa (2015–)—a subseries of the New Good Paintings (2015–)—and the preceding series, Good Paintings (1971–2015).
Jenney is committed to exploring, and ultimately transcending, realism as both style and philosophy—a project first sparked by the preponderance of Pop-themed Photorealism in late-1960s New York. Having designated his early work “Bad Painting” (a term coined by Marcia Tucker, director of the New Museum, New York, in 1978) and his output after 1970 “Good Painting,” he continues to challenge familiar models of taste and subject matter while pursuing a meticulous and highly idiosyncratic approach to the representation of culture and place.
As with proto-Surrealist writer Raymond Roussel’s fanciful travelogue Impressions d’Afrique (Impressions of Africa, 1910), Jenney’s approach to his subject in the paintings on view is rooted in personal imagination, and in Western fantasies about the continent. Although these paintings are landscapes, they eschew sweeping panoramas in favor of more intimate, even introspective scenes. But despite his pictorial restraint, Jenney’s series addresses fundamental conflicts between nature and civilization, and reflects a concern with our deteriorating environment.
Modern Africa shows architectural fragments that Jenney characterizes as “utilitarian”—columns, ramps, and stairways—half-submerged in undulating sand dunes. These monumental structures seem to exist in past and future simultaneously, providing both a critical look at the legacies of colonialism and a speculative view of what may lie in wait for humanity should we fail to address climate change. While the shadows and footprints that intrude here and there reveal a continued human presence, no figures are visible, suggesting that Jenney’s envisioned world is incapable of supporting many survivors.
Jenney refers to his work as “painted sculpture,” and uses handmade black wooden frames, which he first designed in the early 1970s, to present canvases executed in a crisp, high-contrast style. This device was inspired by the classical Greek notion of viewing a painting as a scene through a window, an idea that he encountered in a Fourth Avenue bookstore. Providing in this way an “architectural foreground” as well as—through their stenciled captions—a guide to title and setting, the frames situate the paintings as objects and interpretations and continue to provide Jenney with what he has described as “the most stimulating prospect” with which he has ever worked.
Neil Jenney and Michael Cary
On the occasion of Neil Jenney: AMERICAN REALISM TODAY, the artist sat down with Gagosian curator Michael Cary to discuss paintings from Jenney’s recent series Modern Africa (2015–)—a subseries of the New Good Paintings (2015–)—and the preceding series, Good Paintings (1971–2015).
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2020
The Winter 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Jenny Saville’s Prism (2020) on its cover.
Neil Jenney’s Rules to Live By
The artist speaks with Douglas Dreishpoon about his career, his conception of the term “realism,” and why one must discover one’s own rules.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
Neil Jenney: Nature Surveyor
Fred Hoffman explores the quiet stillness and Arcadian wonderment at the heart of Neil Jenney’s North American landscape paintings.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Extended through February 3, 2018
Drawings & Paintings
October 27, 2017–February 3, 2018
Park & 75, New York