Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dan Colen, "Peanuts"

Dan Colen, "Silent Treatment", gum on canvas, 2010. Photo from afmuseet.

When you Google Pictures search "Dan Colen" you get as many photos of cool art dudes partying as you do artworks he has made. That makes me apprehensive. - Like I was when I arrived at his Astrup Fearnley Museum "Peanuts" show last weekend.

And his chewing gum pictures confirmed my prejudice. They give off an air of art school adolescence, and are not very different from this painting which he has found and included in his show:

Dan Colen, "The Big Swirl", found painting, 2006.
Photo from Joshua Abelow Art Blog.

Colen and the group of art buddies he used to hang out with have been called the "Bowery School", from The Bowery in New York. For a short while in the 1990s I lived on St. Mark's place (close to The Bowery) together with aspiring artists of many different disciplines. And often I would see helpless artwork like the one above put out on the sidewalk to be chucked into a garbage truck.

What was interesting, I thought, when I saw "Silent Treatment" and "The Big Swirl" hanging next to each other in the Astrup Fearnley exhibition, was that Colen's chewing gum canvas only barely rests on the right side of the boarder towards a less than mediocre art school student's desperate attempt to come up with something original ... - Chewing gum!

Dan Colen, "Self-portrait as the wanderer
(as I pause to ponder: do real men break hearts?
I decide yes! They do. Only to later change my mind.)",
 oil on found painting, 2004. Photo from afmuseet.

There are quite a few found paintings in the show to which Colen has painted additions. - Like the one above that I show in a small version to protect under age viewers...

This hangs on a wall all by itself, and becomes quite poetic - even touching - by way of its title.

Dan Colen, "Eviction Party", flowers on canvas, 2010. Photo from afmuseet.

The flower pictures radiate a similar poetic sensibility. - Those fresh, but perishable colors smeared into an unprimed canvas ...

Dan Colen, "The Whole Enchilada", 2010. Photo from Kunstkritikk.

And even this knocked over flagpole becomes an image of general sadness and loss, rather than a political statement.

All this subtle and potent poetry finally managed to outshine Colen's insisting cool, and it proved my visit to the Astrup Fearnley Museum worth while.

With this new - more positive - attitude I was even able to find something interesting in his banal text paintings:

Dan Colen, "Holy Shit", Photo from jameswagner.

"Holy Shit" placed upside down is more interesting than "Holy Shit" placed the right way.

Dan Colen, "Holy Shit", Photo from Peres Projects.

And "Holy Shit" mirrored is more interesting than "Holy Shit" upside down.

Dan Colen, "Holy Shit" t-shirt, Photo from Urban Outfitters.

But "Holy Shit" on t-shirts from Urban Outfitters becomes far too much!
(It is this consumerism - latent in all the text paintings - that makes them annoying.)

(Norwegian readers should check out Kjetil Røed's excellent review of "Peanuts" at Kunstkritikk.)


Sam Boetti said...

You should check out Dan Colen's ''Lust for Life (Noah's Ark)'' 2006 painting. It's a great piece.


CELINE said...

Yes! Thank you for mentioning it. What a funny and profound work. I may have had vague thoughts of such potential frustration amongst those animals. But this nails the problem of the literal vs the allegorical.
And it strikes me how important Colen's titles are.

(I found it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59192912@N04/5492011328/)