R. Allen Jensen

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.


Anonymous said…
HI, I also had Bob Jensen at WWU from 1993 until his retirement. He was/is my favorite professor! I too have been influenced by his art and philosophy somewhat and will never forget time at his home and studio. I really wish I had kept in touch with him, but life and work seemed to get in the way after graduation and I never thought that maybe he would like to have kept in touch with me. I wonder, it's not too late to do that now is it? I am sure that everyone had a wonderful time at his birthday. I wouldn't doubt if even at least one student from the years that I was at Western was there at the party. I have seen his art at the H'Arts Benefit Auction in Everett but can never seem to find him featured online until your website. Thank you for sharing the videos and photos of Bob! I have really missed him. By the way, I love your works! The colors and shapes/forms are exciting and intriging. Did you ever come up to Western to one of Bob's drawing workshop classes and do a critique of students work? Thanks, Kristin Boyd (boydsnest@peoplepc.com)
Will said…
Wow, what a great write up on a truly brilliant artist. I used to sit in on his classes and was always in awe of his work (I was there in the mid-80's). I still have a drawing by one of his students- I think his name was Dana Moore, another talented student of RAJ, along with you and Brandon!

BTW- just came across this thanks to google....
Sienna said…
Nice write up Harold on an artist and former professor that I truly adored. Jensen had a profound impact on me as well. I worked with him from 1983-1986 when I dropped out at WWU (who knows why). He believed in me enough to let me not come to class except for critiques and he got me a studio in where the other professors had their studios, including him. I was too stupid to understand how privileged I was. I used spray paint, resin and all kinds of noxious materials, but he never complained. The others got me kicked out against his protest but he got me into the Stern's house with the upper class students and grad students. Jensen's dark works were always inspiring to me and I felt his passion for art and creation to be incredibly sincere. I have not seen him since I dropped out but I remember him telling me to bring a load of my paintings to some gallery in Seattle and to just load them up in front of the door until they gave me a show.
I have a beautiful small drawing by him framed and on my wall which is absolutely exquisite. It is great to read what you wrote about him because it reminds me of how great he was. I would love to see him some day again.
Will said…
Maybe time to set up a field trip????
or meet in the morning with him here in Seattle at the Athenian at the Market at 7AM
Will said…
The Athenian, is that his regular stop? I thought artists went to bed at 7:00 am.... I'm in though!
Great to have found your excellant article on Bob Jensen. I took a few art course from him while living in Bellingham, back in the 80's, which changed my life; deciding to pursue art fully on the East Coast. I still remember his insightful, encourageing and articulate teachings.. what a great mentor! Always appreciated his honest critiques. We kept up with emails from time to time the years following while I was exhibiting in NYC and Boston... but then lost track.

Thirty-five years later still working away from my studio here in New Zealand...because of his encouraging words!
'Greeting Bob'... from Waiheke Island, NZ
www.lewenz.net church bay studio gallery
Will said…
Great work Gabriella, I can see Bob's influence ;-)