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Alfred Jensen

A Quadrilateral Oriented Vision, Per I–Per VI

1960

Alfred Jensen moved away from gestural abstraction at the end of the 1950s, instead employing diagrams and grids in his paintings in order to visually translate complex ancient systems. A Quadrilateral Oriented Vision, Per I–Per VI comprises six equally sized canvases that are joined together so that they can be “read” from left to right. Based on the Mayan calendar, the composition is a grid organizing several Mayan notational systems, including numerical symbols of the dot, which stands for one, and the dash, which stands for five. Almost paradoxically, though the painting features these notational systems, it ultimately defies legibility.

Alfred Jensen (b. 1903, Guatemala City, Guatemala; d. 1981, Livingston, New Jersey)
A Quadrilateral Oriented Vision, Per I–Per VI, 1960
Oil on canvas
84 x 300 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of the Estate of Sam Francis, Frederick M. Nicholas, Administrator with Will Annexed

Ancient calendar systems, the edge of the sun reappearing, have been a source of my concrete and symbolic number structures. I follow Pythagoras, who said, “Let the true principle be known, the beginning is the half of the whole.” —Alfred Jensen