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Butler planning tribute to artist Paul Jenkins

June 25, 2012 - Andy Gray
The Butler Institute of American Art sent word over the weekend that artist Paul Jenkins died earlier this month at age 88.

Jenkins was born in Missouri, but he spent his teenaged years in Struthers. After serving in the U.S. Naval Air Corps in the mid-1940s, he relocated to New York City and used the G.I. Bill to study at the Art Students League.

According to Butler Director Louis Zona, "Paul Jenkins was a key member of the New York School of artists, and exhibited alongside such legendary figures as Willem DeKooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. As a younger member of that group he would help to extend the Abstract Expressionist philosophy beyond the 1950s, and would help lead the charge toward a new direction that critic Clement Greenburg would later term Post Painterly Abstraction. Paul Jenkins employed the unique painting technique of directed pouring that would help to define the uniquely original nature of Post War art in America."

Jenkins’ work is part of the permanent collections the Whitney, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Gallery in London.

The Butler owns several of his works in addition to Andy Warhol’s “Portrait of Paul Jenkins.” A tribute exhibition is planned for later in the year.

Jenkins was awarded the Butler Medal for Life Achievement in the Arts in 1997. In an interview at the Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch in Howland, Jenkins said he only lived in the Mahoning Valley a couple of years but they were influential years.

“Youngstown was very encouraging for someone who thought they could do everything,” Jenkins said.

Along with pursuing his interest in art, Jenkins was active with the Youngstown Playhouse, playing a lead role in "Arsenic and Old Lace,"and he also read plays on a local radio station.

He remembered climbing up a coal pile (and getting stopped by the police) to sketch the fire from the Bessemer furnace at Youngstown Sheet & Tube on his first trip here. And his later studies at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh with Clarence Carter dramatically influenced his work.

“This part of the world had an enormous impact on me and my development,” he said.


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Artist Paul Jenkins, who lived in Struthers as a teenager, died earlier this month at age 88. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne D. Jenkins)