Jenik Cook, American (1940 - )

Jenik Cook

Jenik is a painter in the tradition of such visual theorists as Gorky, Kandinsky, and Motherwell. Absorbing and processing a vast range of material, from ancient languages to modern painting movements, her works convey a sense of confidence over this broad spectrum of experience. Jenik's taste for the primeval is evidenced in her discovery of the original mark: "You don't care if you ruin a piece of paper: it's just a piece of paper. But recently I've been thinking that the real creativity is often on a piece of paper." This tenet of Modernism has become fundamental to Jenik's work.

Her often biomorphic shapes and lines, coupled with her bold use of color infuse her paintings with richly exotic symbolism in the style of Miro and Leger. Early on, she took a cue from Munch whose work inspired her to put her life story in visual form. Now, Jenik's work tells that story abstractly with a vibrancy and expression that move from the container of her picture into the viewer's psyche. Her work is a celebration of generous form and color.

Jenik has painted all her life. Her work reflects a personal love for invention and creating new relationships. The certainty of Jenik's marks shows conviction and beauty. The works are master-pieces of impulsiveness, as they are also impulsively moving.


Jenik’s Exaltations by D. F. Colman

Jenik’s sensitively painted works on paper seize you (somehow, gently) by the throat and they don’t let go. This sensitive art-making process isn’t so sweet and guileless any more. The work shakes rattle and roles as it sings sweet lullabies to the viewer. There is an unabashed passion, which makes itself evident in the artists’ latest body of work, reflecting a sonorous and deeply creative mind.

What we sense and feel in Jenik’s recent works are the cumulative energies of grand modern masters such as Sam Francis’ work of the late seventies, Miro’s elaborate overall works of the fifties, and the propulsive surges of Franz Kline, albeit softened with just the right touch of Jenik’s ever-present lyricism.
Playfulness and mystery infiltrate the artist’s paradoxes which allow us, as viewers, to access infinite spaces, and then voids within fullness. Often outsized loops and calligraphic-like segments careen and hover inside planes of brightly colored grounds. Emotionally expansive readings and psychologically dense inferences become plain to the eye through the rendering of form, color, and space.

Jenik’s gestural abstractions remind us of the philosopher Shelling’s comment that art was the resolution of an infinite contradiction in a finite object. How true this is of Jenik’s artwork. She has arrived at a point in her mastery where she creates works that are pictorially engaging on formal levels but also philosophically teasing and profound in imagery. The artist’s visionary exaltations refer to the enigmatic presence of lived life aware of itself and of its limitations, yet pressing on and filled with a sense of infinite possibilities. This vision is a fine legacy for us as viewers to bask in.

- D.F. Colman is an arts writer residing in Manhattan.

From an article in the Burbank Leader by Michael Bolge, 2009:

Jenik Cook, a California resident who has amassed a most impressive resume with shows spreading out from Scotland to New York, and many right here in Southland. Cook's work has often been compared to the great modernists of the past, Kandinsky and Motherwell. While perhaps a compliment, this also seems a disservice to her striking talent.

Cook possesses something more than a painter following in the footsteps of others before. There is a supreme depth to her work that captures a newer sense of Modernism, something that is sadly missing from the current art scene. If any comparison is to be made it should be to other greats like that of Jackson Pollack, illustrated beautifully in her "Pure Energy #5." The work, like Pollack's, is a multiplex of colors in droplets and splashes, something that might appear frantic and unintentional from a distance but upon closer inspection reveals a bold, controlled style.

Cook's abstract portraits, very similar to another great, Pablo Picasso, art a testament to a natural gift of balancing cubism and free form, perfectly captured in her piece, "Inseparable #9" piece. Her shapes and lines infuse her paintings with a richly exotic symbolism of style. There is purpose and psychology to her work, conveying a sense of confidence from a broad spectrum of experience.

Cook's distinction as a modern painter is in her grace and amplitude in creating works that are engaging and powerful. They make more than a mark - they make a statement generating alluring and fasincation canvases. This is more than apparent in her dramatic "Untitled #38" Calder himself would have been most proud.

Jenik was a 1st place prize winner of 2010's American Art Award.



No question but the painting of Jenik Cook - and hardly less the work she realizes in other media (most notably ceramics) -is abstract-expressionist. But it is not necessarily Abstract Expressionist. That is, however much it may evince the DNA of mid-century American "action painting," or even European counterparts such as tachism, l'art informel, or CoBrA, Cook's art only incidentally revives the method, much less the look, of these bumptious, scrappy art movements. Rather, to power her vision, she goes back to the roots of gestural modernism, finding dancing line, elastic contour, and fervid color in surrealism, in fauvism, in expressionism itself. The painting of Pollock and Kline, and of Fautrier and Jorn, gives Cook permission to work unfettered like this, and gives us the context to comprehend fully - even to empathize kinesthetically with - what she does. But she is not emulating, much less imitating, Afro or James Brooks in her graceful, muscular paintings on paper or rehashing Sam Francis or André Lanskoy with the rhythmic clots and scatterings of pigment that collect on her canvases (well, on a wide variety of more-or-less canvas-like support material). Look instead to Miro, Masson, Marc, or Münter, Pechstein or Picasso, Marcks or Matisse, for Cook's sources.

Indeed, look into Cook's own cultural heritage. The line that whips and loops throughout Cook's oeuvre, whether hurling forms across canvas expanses or tracing them on the sides of pots, whether describing slashing trails of pure pigment or the sinuous contours of human bodies, is no more a painted line than it is a written one. It is made less with the whole body - although one can sense a change of stance, a hip motion, in so many of these dancing whiplashes - than with the whole arm. These gestures issue from the wrist and the shoulder. They are in fact as much inscribed as painted. Their energy is not just telegraphic; it is calligraphic. If the vivacity of the image bespeaks Cook's Armenian blood, the rhapsodic curvaceousness of her line betrays her Iranian childhood. As comfortable speaking and writing Farsi as she is Armenian, Cook marries her disparate cultural sources -which of course now include the western European and American influences of her adult life - into an aesthetically cohesive mix with a surprisingly broad formal reach.

Perhaps the breadth of that reach, given the variety of sources, isn't actually so surprising. But it is always a bit startling to witness - that is, to be allowed to witness - an artist master such a conceptual and expressive range. Most artists have this range in them, but so many suppress it. For her part, however, Cook refuses to suppress her stylistic multivalency. Not only does she not limit her vision, but she uses that vision very consciously to drive her artmaking in as many ways as it needs to go. She may edit, but she does not self-censure. Her style, ultimately as coherent and personal as a signature, emerges from and among her plethora of approaches, approaches which themselves spring from her persistence, her prolific output, her knowledge of art, and her irrepressible verve. Jenik Cook's art springs forth -in several directions at once.

Peter Frank

Artist's Gallery


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