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.
Dan Colen: Sky High Farm
In this video, Dan Colen speaks about his inspiration in founding Sky High Farm as a way to address food insecurity and improve access to fresh, nutritious food for underserved communities in New York. Established in 2011, the 40-acre farm raises pasture-based livestock and grows organic fruit and vegetables exclusively for donation.
The Bigger Picture
Sky High Farm × Project EATS
Dan Colen and Linda Goode Bryant are both artists who have founded nonprofits devoted to food justice. Here they speak about art, food, and life, including how they arrived at farming and the urgency of their projects’ missions during the current health crisis.
A Single Moment: Dan Colen and Francesco Bonami
Dan Colen joins Francesco Bonami in a conversation about absence and nostalgia, decadence and decay, progress and failure—and about help, the theme of his most recent body of paintings.
Dan Colen with Hans Ulrich Obrist
Against the backdrop of his survey exhibition Sweet Liberty, Dan Colen speaks about his work with Hans Ulrich Obrist, starting with his earliest interest in art and continuing up to the recent Desert paintings (2015–19).
Dan Colen: Carry On Cowboy
Gagosian Quarterly presents Dan Colen’s Carry On Cowboy. This performance first took place during the exhibition Dan Colen: High Noon at Gagosian, Beverly Hills.
Dan Colen: At Least They Died Together
Gagosian Quarterly presents Dan Colen’s At Least They Died Together. This performance first took place during the exhibition Dan Colen: High Noon at Gagosian, Beverly Hills.
May 20–26, 2020
Moving between diverse styles and subjects, Dan Colen investigates the conceptual stakes of materiality and mark making. Alongside explorations in unconventional mediums including chewing gum, flowers, and metal studs, he continually returns to oil painting and representation, conducting an ever-evolving inquiry into the objecthood and authority of painting as a medium.
Photo: Eric Piasecki