Grandeur rubs up against a strange caliginous quality in Bill Jensen’s latest visionary paintings. On the grand side, he’s abstracted details from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment to distill the artist’s muscular aesthetic in a series titled “Transgressions.” One features a large diptych radiating appendages that appear to explode into flame. Another series has an opposite effect, with compositions almost impossible to read; it’s as if the dark matter pervading the universe suddenly imposed a sense of both menace and stillness.
My favorite paintings are two modest, purplish canvases inhabited by blotlike forms in shades of violet and lavender. Each piece has been scraped and attacked with painterly aggression, making their subjects seem wounded and weighty yet still curiously light due to the kitschy overtones of their palette.
There’s much beauty in the transparent layering, subtle scumbling and sure command of pigment in Jensen’s larger paintings. Yet it’s his use of purple in his smaller works—the color of bruising, royalty and tacky taste—that impresses the most.—Jennifer Coates