Opening reception: Wednesday, February 26, 6–8pm
I’m interested in the fragility of the moment. When painting, each brushstroke is an opportunity to consider and preserve that moment. Each mark is a decision, from the moment the brush collides with the canvas, and each one can go in so many different directions.
Gagosian is pleased to present HELP, an exhibition of new paintings by Dan Colen.
Moving between diverse styles and subjects, Colen investigates the conceptual stakes of materiality and mark making. In his earliest paintings, elements of the supernatural intrude into naturalistic renderings of interior spaces, while his more recent canvases explore the technical, physical, and thematic limits of the medium itself. Colen has often worked with unconventional materials such as chewing gum, soil, and trash, relinquishing control of his work’s final appearance to their unpredictable surfaces. Nevertheless, representational imagery has remained a through line across his oeuvre, allowing him to conduct an ever-evolving inquiry into the objecthood and authority of painting as a medium.
In the seven new canvases on display in HELP, Colen uses the motif of the message in a bottle—bobbing on an open sea or washed up on a distant shore—to stage the practice of painting as an act of faith, and as a tool for communication with the unknown. The note enclosed in the sealed glass container has traditionally functioned as a distress signal or last-ditch message from a desperate or doomed sailor. These works represent the final entries in Colen’s cycle of “Disney paintings,” which derive their imagery from animated films made by the famous studio.
Beginning in 2003 with his Candle paintings, Colen has used Disney’s imagery and aesthetic to suggest the presence of the fantastical and the miraculous. Based on imagery from Pinocchio (1940), these works depict the woodcarver Geppetto’s table. But in a humorous subversion of Disney’s wholesome ethic, the smoke drifting up from a just-extinguished candle spells out a succession of obscenities. The later Miracle series (2010–18) uses imagery from Fantasia (1940), while the Mother paintings (2008–19), draw on Lady and the Tramp (1955).
In HELP, Colen looks to the fantasy drama The Rescuers (1977). Here he renders ocean and horizon in bright primary colors, retaining the hard graphic outlines characteristic of the cartoon form while still infusing the paintings’ ripples and waves with a sense of movement. In places, his expressive brushstrokes evoke the softness and freedom of watercolor as much as the relative fixity of oils. Among Colen’s most atmospheric works to date, these haunting compositions evoke oceanic loneliness, purposefully drawing upon familiar imagery to suggest a confrontation or conversation with the sublime.
821 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Hours: Monday–Saturday 10–6
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.
Gagosian Quarterly Talks
Dan Colen, Dimitri Chamblas, and Douglas Fogle
Douglas Fogle moderates a conversation between Dan Colen and Dimitri Chamblas following the premiere of Colen’s two performance pieces At Least They Died Together and Carry On Cowboy.
Work in Progress
We visit the artist’s studio in Brooklyn, New York, to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his new series of Desert paintings while he prepares for an upcoming exhibition in Beverly Hills. Text by Ben Eastham.
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.
Saturday, March 7, 2020, 3–4pm
Gagosian Shop, New York
Gagosian will host a book signing with Dan Colen to celebrate the publication of High Noon, an exhibition catalogue of his Desert Paintings (2015–19), exhibited at Gagosian, Beverly Hills, in 2018. These large-scale paintings are lush yet schematic interpretations of the arid landscapes from Chuck Jones’s animated shorts featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The volume also documents two new performances, At Least They Died Together and Carry On Cowboy (both 2018). To attend the free event, RSVP to email@example.com.
Dan Colen: High Noon (New York: Gagosian, 2020)