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 laboured 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.Read More
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 behaviour 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.
Text courtesy Gagosian.
Colen has been preoccupied with themes of performance, illusion, and self-portraiture in painting ever since his first exhibition, at Rivington Arms Gallery in 2003 (an exhibition that showcased his own obsessive streak, given that its four paintings took him four years to complete). In Me, Jesus and the Children (2001–2003), the artist's bare...
In 2003, at the age of 26, Ryan McGinley had his first major solo show in New York—at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Today, after more than a decade of the art world strategizing and promoting young artists as instant masters worthy of career-size retrospectives with what is often still embryonic material, that fact may not ring as...
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