NARRATOR: A lone man swims toward a yellow lifeboat, the water ominously brimming with shark fins. Neil Jenney’s paintings often present a cause and effect or an action and outcome to explore basic human themes: technology, progress, emotion, and survival. This work is called Threat and Sanctuary. In it, he comments on the way humans relate to the natural world, a theme that continues in his work to this day.

Jenney has applied the paint thinly, in broad, brushy marks and scratches, giving the appearance that he worked quickly. He presents only a few elements in simple relationships, expressing each in its most essential color and form—blue is the sea, a grey triangle is the shark’s fin. His style famously became known as “bad painting” in the 1970s, and then, “New Image Painting.”

Jenney painted during the height of conceptual art: making painting in 1969 was a kind of rebuttal. But notice the way that he crafted the painting’s deep black frame and added its title in block letters. This deadpan literalism and his interest in the relationship between word and image show that he did, in fact, share concerns with his more conceptual peers.


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