Dan Colen, Let's have a war, 2016, flowers on bleached Belgian linen, 93 × 74 inches (236.2 × 188 cm) © Dan Colen
From the outset, Dan Colen’s paintings continually investigate: 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 paintings, Colen labored 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 the subsequent series of Candle paintings as “portraits of God.” In these works, the space of the canvas contains the space of 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.
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 controlling approach to painting, instead allowing the final result to be guided in large part by the behavior of the given material. He commented that he found the loss of control exciting, as if the paintings were taking on “inevitable forms—almost like destined forms.”
Dan Colen was born in 1979 in New Jersey. He received his B.F.A. in 2001 from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Recent solo exhibitions include “Peanuts,” Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Norway (2011); “In Living Color,” FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2012); “The Illusion of Life,” Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Scotland (2013); “Help!,” The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Connecticut (2014); “The L...o...n...g Count,” The Walter De Maria Building, New York (2014); “Psychic Slayer,” HEART—Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (2015); and “Oil Painting,” Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2016). His work is featured in several public collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens; de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, Miami; Jimenez–Colon Collection, Puerto Rico; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Colen currently lives and works in New York.