Dan Christensen, Pipeline, 1989, acrylic on canvas, 65 x 58 1/2 inches.





NEW YORK, NEW YORK, February 1, 2022—Berry Campbell is pleased to announce its fourth exhibition of paintings by Dan Christensen, focusing on his spraypaintings from 1988 to 1994. By the late 1960s, Christensen became known among dealers, collectors and museums for his innovative use of the gun, creating swirling and plunging colored lines on large-scale canvases. After experimenting with this medium and other techniques for decades, Christensen decided to revisit the exclusive use of the spray gun. Re-explore the union of color and form, line and paint. Created at a time when Christensen was settled in his life and well-established in his art, the sprays he created between 1988 and 1994 seem to look outward rather than inward, suggesting that an artist thinks less about itself than on the cosmic. and eternal.

The works in this exhibition are divided into three groups: the portrait bombs and the bombs with one or more spheres. Spray portraits consist of orbs surrounded by concentric circles, cut at the edges of a work to imply a sense of unlimited space. In these images, Christensen explored scale with reference to the figurative art of his early career. One of Christensen’s most notable examples of his spray paint portraits is blue boy, 1988, in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Christensen’s lyrical abstract painting references Gainsborough’s iconic blue boy, 1770, in the collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Single-point sprays are necessarily centripetal, but they are far from inert. These unique spots are reminiscent of the targets of Jasper Johns and Kenneth Noland, but Christensen has animated this form with his own cachet, producing blurry shapes that seem to rotate and react magnetically and atmospherically. Multi-spot works are about relationships. Some consist of two equal spheres, while other works feature two or more unequal shapes, undulating and pulsating across the surface of the canvas.

When Christensen was pressed to explain the meaning of his art, he may have had the sprays from 1988 to 1994 in mind in the answer he provided: “the harmonious turbulence of the universe”. As his friend, art dealer Douglas Drake recalled, the phrase, which he may have invented or borrowed, became almost his mantra. Dan Christensen: The Harmonious Turbulence of the Universe | Spray paintings (1988-1994) opens February 10 and runs through March 12, 2022. Berry Campbell represents the estate of Dan Christensen.


Throughout his career, Dan Christensen has always moved forward but also looked back. His method was to constantly search for new ways to paint, and one investigation led to another. However, in the process, he often returned to the methods and materials he had explored earlier, reincorporating them into new iterations. With such a recombinant approach, his work is a commentary on the artistic process itself and becomes a cohesive whole when his work as a whole is considered.

Christensen first gained recognition for his innovative use of the spray gun in the late 1960s. His early sprays were critically acclaimed for embodying an exuberant type of painting that broke with the sober formalism of minimalism and took up the artistic traditions of the post-war years. In 1967, Christensen purchased his first spray gun from a body shop the day before airbrushing became a popular art medium. After first seeking control of a difficult technique in works with grid formats, he laid his canvases on the floor and loosened to create swirling, curling arcs with muscular force over immense brightly colored fields. While reinvoking the hallmark of action painting, the softly contoured gestures were not consciously heartbreaking, but rather testified to a love of color and self-contained freedom, drawing the viewer into a directly visceral lyrical engagement.

In 1969, Christensen put aside the spray gun out of a desire for greater physical engagement in creating art. Over the next two decades, he continued to take chances with non-traditional mediums and the new paints, gels and thinners that came onto the market. In the works of these years, he modifies the viscosity of his surfaces with tools and methods of coloring in several series. In the stain paintings from 1976 to 1988, he used sticks, brushes and turkey basters to produce calligraphic designs into which he poured diluted pigments. In his moody images, he drew inspiration from his responses to the natural world, particularly in Springs, Long Island, New York, where he spent summers and eventually lived full time, with his wife, l artist Elaine Grove, and their two young sons.

The thinned surfaces of the spots and their liveliness in new figure/ground relationships may have prompted Christensen to revisit the spray gun. From 1988 to 1994, he again used spray as his only medium, re-exploring the union of color and form, line and paint. However, here, instead of curling the spray over the surface, it has defined spherical shapes in auras of light. Describing an exhibition of these works at the ACA Galleries in 1993, Lilly Wei called them “essentially modernist paintings”, commenting that in them, “op art, color field and minimalism are updated with a range of brilliant, often metallic colors played against each other.[1] Brooks Adams remarked of Christensen’s 1991 exhibition at the Salander O’Reilly Gallery: “the flecked texture of acrylic spray paint, particularly effective where two colors overlap but do not blend, creates a bas-relief feel and suggests a blazing pointillist sun.”[2] Also, instead of the lyricism and playfulness of 1960s sprays, the new sprays, created with iridescent shimmer paint, are more metaphysical. Continuing an ancient lineage in the art of cosmological and celestial symbolism, their shimmering forms imply the Pythagorean harmony of the spheres as well as atomic energy and matter.

Christensen received a National Endowment Grant in 1968 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969. His paintings are held in over thirty museum collections, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Denver Art Museum; the Detroit Institute of the Arts; the fine arts museums of San Francisco; the High Museum, Atlanta; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey; the Seattle Museum of Art; the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Seattle Museum of Art; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and many more. The Berry Campbell Gallery in Chelsea represents Christensen’s estate.


Christine Berry and Martha Campbell opened the Berry Campbell Gallery in the heart of Chelsea on the ground floor in 2013. The gallery offers a fine-tuned program representing artists in post-war American painting who were neglected or overlooked, in especially the women of abstract expressionism. Since its inception, the gallery has developed a strong research focus to bring to light artists overlooked because of their race, gender or geography. This unique perspective is increasingly recognized by curators, collectors and the press. The gallery’s contemporary program continues this exploration. Contemporary works have been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn, New York; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln Nebraska; and the Telfair Museums, Savannah, Georgia.

Berry Campbell has been included and reviewed in publications such as art forum, Architectural Digest, ArtNews, Art & Antiques, the Brooklyn Railroad, the Huffington Post, hyperallergic, East Hampton Star, art critic, Luxury Magazine, the New criterion, the New York Times, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Whitehot Contemporary Art Magazine.

Berry Campbell is located at 530 W 24th street, New York, New York. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

[1] Lilly Wei, “Dan Christensen at the ACA Galleries”, Art in America 81 (July 1993), p. 33.
[2] Brooks Adams, “Dan Christensen at Salander O’Reilly and Douglas Drake,” Art in America 79 (December 1991), p. 107.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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