Christenberry is one of the definitive artists of contemporary
American prescient in content and form. Starting his artist's
life in abstract painting, Christenberry first because known
as a photographer, and his subsequent works have incorporated
printmaking, sculpture, bookmaking and assemblage, all wielded
with equal confidence as their discrete forms become necessary
to his vision. This is not so unusual, anymore, in contemporary
American art. It is however notable that Christenberry through
embracing multiple mediums and beginning to merge his abstract
and narrative impulses more than 40 years ago, led the way
for the current generation, and continues to astonish with
the richness and clarity of his creative voice.
The Constructions and Related
and Related Drawings, 1964-1968 presents 25 wall-hung assemblages,
along with 14 drawings and taco lithographs which are studies
for, or conversely, two-dimensional evolutions from these
dynamic and visually exciting forms. The Constructions mark
a non-narrative formally conceptual approach to making abstract
painting three-dimensional. Christenberry explains that
"the Constructions are a very logical bridge between
my early paintings, to my three-dimensional work of today."
Between 1964-1968, Christenberry worked on the Constructions
using found Styrofoam elements, throw-away materials and
paint much in the spirit of Kurt Schwitter's merzbau compositions
and Marcel Duchamp's "ready mades.''
have moved from representational works to more abstract
forms through their careers. It is less usual for an artist
to have emerged from rich and meaningful investigations
in the depths of formal abstraction into a realm of narrative
autobiography incorporating specific representations and
documentations of the observed and changing world. Christenberry
has navigated this atypical course with a characteristic
Southern trust in the intelligence and aptitude of his viewers.
The Constructions offer a view of Christenberry's experimental
creative process at the beginning of his mature working
life, free from specific narrative details. This view enriches
and expands our understanding of the development of his
increasingly narrative and autobiographical current works.
Tenant House V. 1964
Oil on Canvas; 54 x 66"
Christenberry: The Early Years, 1954-1968 features this
quintessential Southern artist's earliest works completed
at the University of Alabama (1956-58), the Tenant House
series (1960-64) and the Beale Street and Memphis paintings
(1962-64). Included among many significant works on paper
are a selection of early drawings an studies for constructions.
Additionally, this exhibition presents a small number of
Brownie-camera photographs. These black-and-white prints
depict rural architecture found in Lets Us Now Praise Famous
Men, homes of families known to the Christenberrys before
William's discovering the Walker Evans/James Agee book in
The Early Years, 1954-1968 presents Christenberry's work
in his creative evolution. Immersed in Abstract Expressionist
philosophies and techniques at the University of Alabama
(1954-59), he abandoned painting on canvas (1964), and adopted
signs and found objects in the three-dimensional Constructions
in Memphis (1964-68). By 1960, following his discovery of
the Evans/Agee work, he began including specific references
to the places of his family file and history, including
Hale County and Perry County, Alabama, reflecting his responses
to the ever-changing Southern physical and cultural environment.