From the outset, Dan Colen’s paintings have continually investigated one foundational question: To what extent does art come from the artist, and to what extent does it arise from forces independent of the artist? In his earliest works, Colen labored over precise oil renderings of banal interiors—a sloppy apartment bathroom, an adolescent bedroom, a camping tent—into which he introduced the presence of the supernatural—the Blue Fairy, Jesus Christ, twinkling cherubs, his deceased grandfather. He describes his subsequent series of Candle paintings as “portraits of God.” In these works, the space of the canvas embodies Geppetto’s worktable—where Pinocchio transcends his materiality to become real—and a message appears in the smoke left by a just-extinguished candle flame.
In 2006 Colen started to make “paintings” with chewing gum instead of paint, ushering in a long period during which he traded representational subject matter for an exploration of the medium itself. Using flowers, dirt, grass, tar and feathers, Mylar confetti, street trash, and readymade metal studs, he relinquished his controlled approach to painting, allowing the final result to be guided by the behavior of a given material. He has mused on this loss of control as a source of excitement, commenting that it was as if the paintings were taking on “inevitable forms—almost like destined forms.”
Colen was born in 1979 in New Jersey. He received a BFA in 2001 from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Recent solo exhibitions include Peanuts, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2011); In Living Color, FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2012); The Illusion of Life, Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (2013); Help!, Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2014); The L . . . o . . . n . . . g Count, Walter De Maria Building, New York (2014); Psychic Slayer, Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (2015); Shake the Elbow, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2015); and Oil Painting, Dallas Contemporary (2016). Colen’s work was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial and the 12th Lyon Biennale in 2013. His work is featured in collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens; de la Cruz Collection, Miami; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Jiménez-Cólón Collection, Puerto Rico; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Colen lives and works in New York.
When I’m Gone
March 21–May 13, 2016
September 2–October 18, 2014
West 24th Street, New York
Out of the Blue, Into the Black
June 12–July 28, 2012
Blowin' in the Wind
April 5–July 5, 2012
September 19–October 29, 2011
September 10–October 16, 2010
West 24th Street, New York
An allegory of faith...
December 18, 2008–February 7, 2009
Davies Street, London
I live there...
November 27–December 17, 2008
Davies Street, London
From the Quarterly
Dan Colen and Ali Subotnick
Dan Colen speaks with Ali Subotnick on the occasion of his exhibition, Dan Colen: Sweet Liberty, at the Newport Street Gallery in London.
The Bigger Picture
Derek Blasberg speaks with Diane Brown, president and founder of RxArt, and with contributing artists Dan Colen, Urs Fischer, and Jeff Koons about the transformative power of visual art.
Dan Colen: The Bowery School
In this video from the Louisiana Channel, Dan Colen sits down to talk about friends like Ryan McGinley and Dash Snow, and how his art developed to a place of celebration.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Friday, September 21, 2018, 7pm
De la Cruz Collection, Miami
Dan Colen will speak about his practice and his new series of works inspired by desert landscapes. To attend the free event, reserve tickets at www.delacruzcollection.org.
Dan Colen, Vengeance, 2015 © Dan Colen. Photo: Christopher Burke
June 14–17, 2018
Messe Basel, booth B11
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2018, presenting works by modern and contemporary artists including Georg Baselitz, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Jennifer Guidi, Andreas Gursky, Neil Jenney, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Takashi Murakami, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Mary Weatherford, and Tom Wesselmann. To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at email@example.com. To preview our booth go to www.artsy.net. To purchase tickets to attend the fair go to www.artbasel.com.
Georg Baselitz, Frau am Strand (Woman on the Beach), 1981 © Georg Baselitz 2018
February 7–11, 2018, booth F201
Centro Citibanamex, Mexico City
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Zona Maco México Arte Contemporáneo 2018, presenting works by Chris Burden, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, Frank Gehry, Piero Golia, Douglas Gordon, Katharina Grosse, Adam McEwen, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Rudolf Stingel, Robert Therrien, Blair Thurman, Adriana Varejão, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann. If you wish to receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available at www.zsonamaco.com.
John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1993 © 2018 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
May 25–September 16, 2018
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
This exhibition of works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection will bring together a corpus of Dan Colen’s paintings (made from oil, chewing gum, confetti, flowers, and lemon juice) as well as sculpture, photographs, and film. Embodiments of moments that have taken on aesthetic form, the works present fragmented stories told in the first person about the artist and his immediate environment. They are dialogues with society and commentaries on art history that often reference political issues, mixing high and low cultural values.
Dan Colen, No Way Jose, 2008–09 © Dan Colen. Photo: Christopher Burke
October 4, 2017–January 28, 2018
Newport Street Gallery, London
This exhibition is Dan Colen’s first major solo exhibition in London and spans more than fifteen years of his art making. The show features new works, including large-scale installations, alongside significant early pieces.
Installation view, Dan Colen: Sweet Liberty, Newport Street Gallery, London, October 4, 2017–January 28, 2018. Artwork © Dan Colen. Photo by Prudence Cumings Associates Ltd © Victor Marta Ltd.
Dan Colen in
Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright
February 11–August 20, 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Featured in this survey of Ryan McGinley’s early work is Dan Colen’s Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors (My Friend Dash’s Wall in the Future) (2004–06/2016). This massive sculpture––the artist’s first––is also a monumental painting. Spanning almost ten feet, the freestanding work is comprised of hundreds of small oil paintings on paper or foam, each a 1:1 trompe l’oeil representation of a corresponding photograph, newspaper clipping, or object that hung in an identical position on Dash Snow’s apartment wall in the early 2000s. The apartment was a gathering place for friends and artists, among them Colen’s childhood friend Ryan McGinley.
Dan Colen, Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors (My Friend Dash’s Wall in the Future), 2004–06/2016