Since the mid-1960s Mogensen has made work that exists unto itself, without any temporal or spatial reference, offering expansive and generous experiences of light, color and form. To preserve both the structure and autonomy of each object, Mogensen does not sign or date his paintings and proceeds with each guided by rules based in elemental mathematics that have been the basis of music and architecture for centuries.
Each painting is carefully conceived and planned, however the way the artist follows these rules offers innumerable possibilities. In her foreword to Karma’s new monograph, Lynda Benglis writes: “Paul is a colorist who is measured in his method. It may be said that he is a decorative painter as well a painter of a philosophical disposition. He is stringent in his approach, as stringent as a mechanic might be with a Ferrari. There are no accidents.” Spanning 1969 to the present, the paintings and drawings on display are linked by the idea of progressions.
Mogensen conceived of the earliest works in this exhibition, many never before exhibited, using three different systems, with subdivisions of each, to determine the sequence and size of each color form. The resultant morse-code-like arrays of aluminum, blue, black, green, red, and yellow, against dark colors or bare canvas, can be read as resonant wordless poems, calling to mind the universalist ideas of early 20th century Russian artists and poets admired by Mogensen, such as Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, and Tatlin.
In recent years, Mogensen has engaged with N+1 progressions, which array growing squares, at equal spacing, around the edges of the canvas, creating a spiraling push and pull between the colors and forms they approach, like a glowing backlit quilt. These works illustrate the tendency for the mind—that is, the whole visual system, from lens to retina to brain—to complete a pattern, to see a form that isn’t there except by
These and many of Mogensen’s paintings are often recorded after completion in his lush gouache-on-paper works, produced after his paintings using the same principles. The drawings become further iterations of his ideas, both complete works unto themselves and an ad hoc catalog of his production. Mogensen considers all of his work as essentially out of time – there is not a returning to ideas, but rather a continual present in which the animating principles are forever in play.
Karma has published a comprehensive monograph of Paul Mogensen’s work, with essays by Lynda Benglis, Nancy Princenthal, Klaus Kertess, and Harris Rosenstein, and an interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist.