Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present Dan Colen's first solo exhibition in London.
The exhibition comprises three components of equal importance: The first is a group of cartoon drawings by a hired illustrator who refers to the notebooks that Colen has filled with art that he has made and wants to make, as well as declarations, common thought, and uncommon fantasy. The second is a large and detailed oil painting entitled An allegory of faith..., which depicts the bench in the woods where Walt Disney's Cinderella first meets her Fairy Godmother. The third is a printed booklet of snapshots taken by Colen in Central Park over the course of an afternoon, evening and night, that visitors to the exhibition can take away. The three exhibition components are connected by the otherworldly dark forest and a marked lack of human presence, which is underscored by the vitrine-like quality of the Davies Street storefront gallery.
Seen through the glass window, Colen's painting reflects on the still ardently debated issues raised by Modernist art critic and historian Michael Fried in his seminal studies, "Art and Objecthood" (1967) and Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot, 1980 – the threat posed to aesthetic experience by the "theatrical" materiality of the Minimalist object and, conversely, the theatricality produced by "a consciousness of viewing" at the expense of total aesthetic absorption. Colen's bench-painting, which maps a selective trompe l'oeil rendering of a received cartoon image onto the formalism of John McCracken's lacquered plank, limns the space between sculpture, painting, and pure illusion. In Colen's incarnation of Disney's animation, Cinderella has been removed (thus leaving space for the viewer's projection) leaving just the trail of magic dust that appears when the Fairy Godmother moves, metaphysically, in and out of space.
Colen draws equally from mass media, environmental experience and sub-cultural language, seeking to infuse the undervalued and overlooked with a sense of elegance and magic. An explorer of subterfuge and affect, he juggles immediacy of expression, perfection of surface, and slipperiness of meaning. Whether through painstaking reconstruction of 'what might have been' (such as expertly rendered papier maché sculptures that feign the casual monuments and sites on which popular culture inscribes its voices and traces; or covertly hand-crafted paintings that emulate the swagger and scrawl of delinquent graffiti) or its inverse (editing, subcontracting or simply stealing and transposing), Colen's self-conscious stance in the world invites viewers to share in unexpected moments of transcendence.
Dan Colen was born in 1979, New Jersey. He graduated with a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design in 2001. International exhibitions include the 2006 Whitney Biennial, New York; "USA Today," The Royal Academy, London; "Defamation of Character," PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island, New York; and "Fantastic Politics," The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo.
Colen lives and works in New York City.
From the Quarterly
The Bigger Picture
Free Arts NYC
Meredith Mendelsohn discusses the impact of Free Arts NYC and its mission to foster creativity in children and teens, on the occasion of its twenty-year anniversary.
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.