Of the exhibitions to be seen in New York this spring, one of the most memorable was Bill Jensen’s at the Washburn Gallery. At least one critic complained because the show was divided into two parts—drawings downtown, paintings on Fifty-seventh Street—but the separation made sense. Jensen’s notebook sketches would have been lost beside his paintings, and his paintings are best seen with lots of surrounding space.

Jensen uses drawing to clarify an idea when he gets stuck while working on a painting. Many of the drawings in the downtown gallery were dense, spiny images centered on a four-by-six sheet of paper with ample white space around them. This arrangement suggested a willed correspondence between the blankness of the page and the weightless space of thought: each fresh sheet affording him the opportunity for his ideas to expand freely, unfettered by previous association. The...


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