Yesterday afternoon I visited Gagosian Gallery
to see Dan Colen’s show “Poetry.” Having exhibited once before in the gallery's London space, this is Colen’s first major solo show in the Chelsea outpost, which showed his "Potty Mouth Potty War" exhibition in 2006. Walking through the exhibition, one is inundated with the monumental scale of the seven works, which include an inverted skateboard half-pipe and thirteen motorcycles. Even the four canvases are extremely large. Despite the formalism of the exhibition, the new works follow the natural tendencies of his oeuvre, evolving from the gritty youth culture that has surrounded Colen.
The works “A Love Story” and “Another Country” are a mix of paint and encrusted bubble-gum, leaving blobs of bright pastel color, alluding to the refuse of reckless behavior and teenage ritual. These themes are also apparent in the painting “The Space Between Nothing and Everything,” which was made by throwing confetti in the air, photographing it, and then recreating the image through paint.
The brick wall seen immediately entering the gallery, held up by four beams, exudes an aura of a pretentious minimalist sculpture. However, it is in fact inspired by a photograph of kids playing basketball in front of a graffiti wall. After having the wall shipped, Colen decisively left it blank without replicating the graffiti. The wall thus becomes a contemplative object, either a statement of the wall as a blank canvas or perhaps even a highly personal nod to “My Friend Dash’s Wall in the Future” from 2004, which was a similarly life-scale recreation of friend Dash Snow’s apartment wall.
“In A Million Years,” a painting of glass bottles inspired by Disney animated shorts, is a work that was two years in the making. The 13 motorcycles tipped over, exhibited next to this painting, are all ersatz Hell’s Angels’ bikes custom-made to look like the real ones photographed from the Hells Angels East Village hangout. The bikes have their own connotations, but exhibited together these works evoke Colen’s own past, the ephemeral nature of drinking and living fast.
Colen’s works serve as a poetic acknowledgement of chance and circumstance, the whims that dominate the everyday in youth culture. The seven works in “Poetry” draw from Colen’s own reality, and elevate the often overlooked. The exhibition is on view at Gagosian through October 16th.
(Stop by OCNY to pick up a Dan Colen puzzle after your trip to Gagosian)