A maverick in twentieth century American art, Jenney shifted his focus from abstract painting and sculpture in order to pursue a new type of realism.
Neil Jenney is a contemporary American painter known for his “Bad Paintings” of the 1960s and early 1970s. Works such as Sawn and Saw (1969) and Girl and Doll (1969) were a reaction to Minimalism and aesthetic taste, with their purposeful rejection of painterly skill and diagrammatic subject matter. “Ivan Karp was showing Photorealists with [Leo] Castelli, and then he opened up his own gallery and got guys like Richard Estes and Duane Hansen. I felt like it was just second generation Pop—pretty but a stale idea,” he has explained. “So I told a friend it would be better to have a good idea and do it terrible!” Born in 1945 in Torrington, CT, he attended the Massachusetts College of Art in 1964 before moving to New York two years later. Originally producing sculptural works, Jenney reacted to the tides of both Pop Art and Minimalism with his brushy paintings of fallen trees, white fences, and other deadpan subjects which often hint at environmental destruction. The artist’s reputation largely fell from public discourse while he continued to evolve as a painter, producing works he refers to as “Good Paintings.” These works, such as Meltdown Morning (1975), instead adopted the sensitivity to light found in the Luminist paintings of John Frederick Kensett. Jenney currently lives and works in New York, NY. Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others.