R.Allen Jensen Drawings for his 70th Birthday, every person that came to celebrate received one.
R. Allen Jensen Assemblage
R. Allen Jensen speaking to those gathered for his 70th Birthday
I was reminded after seeing Robert Yoder, and reading Chris Jagers post on Saturday, of a professor I had at Western Washington University: R. Allen Jensen. I thought it might be interesting to introduce some of you to R. Allen Jensen, it seems a bit due, as he had a great impact on my work, the ways in which, to this day, I still work, and my choice to attend WWU back in the late 80's. I recently went up to see Bob at his home/studio near Arlington Washington to celebrate his 70th birthday with him and some friends. He still produces work, and his eye is as honed as it ever was, as you can see from the above pictures. R. Allen Jensen's theater of art making was one of negation: negation of the avant-gardist concept of originality, negation of logic and reason, negation of the desire to assign uniform cultural meanings to diverse phenomena. His was the craft of making art that would become a record of a performance, mixed with very autobiographical references, and very universal ideas. In the 70's and 80's Jensen often did live performances with the works he created. He created works that were almost macabre, lifesize crosses that he would crucify himself on, nude, in the dark except for some clip lamps laying in and around the floor of the piece. From the pictures he showed us in class, the works looked powerful, well crafted, and always physically and mentally daunting. I came to see R. Allen Jensen's artwork during a faculty show in 1987, I was searching all the faculty shows in Washington state colleges at the time, looking for something, a trigger perhaps? I had been reading and coming to grips with the work of Joseph Beuys at the time of all of this, and was drawn to both the physical nature of his work, and the underlying meanings in materials that are associated with the artwork. R. Allen Jensen's work fit what I was looking for physically, and I decided to sneak in and sit thru a class if I possibly could. I did, and was hooked immediately by his direction, references, and style; he was wearing a vest and a hat in the same vein as Beuys might have. I signed on, and enjoyed two incredibly challenging years in his classroom. He pushed me hard, doubled my work load in contrast to others in the same classes, and I loved it! He often had my head hurting after a critique, and the information he passed along at times I felt was beyond me, but it always came around, whether later that same day, later in the week, or sometimes years later. He was my guide, showing me how to cut down things in my way, directing me towards a place I needed to go, whether inside my head, or in the world at large. I can still hear him in my ear, pushing me, asking tough questions, and showing that one can take any object, and pull it into our world and call it art, but you better have it down, it better be like your hand, drawn well, and executed for purpose.