This show has a lot to do with failure and potential, accident and intention, and time at its most minute and most infinite. It’s about how powerful a single simple gesture can be.
Gagosian is pleased to present Dan Colen’s first major solo exhibition in New York. This follows his two-part exhibition “I Live There”/“An Allegory of Faith” at Gagosian Gallery Davies Street in 2009 and the surreptitious exhibition “Potty Mouth Potty War” in the bathrooms of Gagosian Gallery West 24th Street in 2006.
Drawing from mass media, local environment, and subculture, Colen’s art imbues the ordinary, the disenfranchised, and the tribal with provocative new status. Working from personal experience with subjects overlooked or considered rogue and delinquent by art and society, he explores the very essence of dichotomy through risk and affect, juggling immediacy of expression with technical perfection. Slipperiness of meaning results in his painstaking reconstruction of ‘what might have been’; in paintings whose apparent incidental qualities—from showered confetti and heavily accreted bird droppings to scrawled song lyrics, random thoughts, and absurd slogans—are, in fact, the result of expert and painstaking brush technique over equally obsessively crafted surfaces; in sculptures that feign the inadvertent monuments and sites on which popular culture inscribes its voices and traces; and in the inverse play of editing, subcontracting, stealing, and transposing.
In this exhibition, Colen adds a further layer of complexity to his meditations on the mimetic nature of art by moving even closer to the reality from which he has always drawn inspiration. Real life, with its social habits and strong aesthetic preferences, seems to be so perfectly and potently designed that the only possible role open to him is as choreographer of single, bold, and exquisite acts of transformation. The scale of his new works and the spaces that house them befit this more resolute embrace of reality and its uncertainties.
In his fervent yet exacting approach to making and staging art, Colen continues to cultivate the marriage of spectacle and pure chance in relation to the materiality of the readymade and Minimalist object. His self-conscious stance, which combines vivid lived experience with aesthetic purposefulness arising from an equally vivid perspective on the freight of art history, allows viewers to share in unexpected moments of transcendence. With “Poetry,” Colen widens and deepens the space in which to reflect on immanence, faith, and doubt in the world today.
Dan Colen was born in New Jersey in 1979. He graduated with a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design in 2001. 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