Dan Colen was born in New Jersey in 1979. From the outset, 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.”
Exhibitions include the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006); “USA Today,” Royal Academy, London (2006); “Defamation of Character,” PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (2006); “Fantastic Politics,” National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2006); “Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection,” New Museum, New York (2010); “Peanuts,” Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2011); “In Living Color,” FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2012); “Meanwhile…Suddenly and then,” 12th Biennale de Lyon (2013); “Dan Colen: The Illusion of Life,” Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2013); “Help!” The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, CT (2014); “The L…o…n…g Count,” The Walter De Maria Building, New York, NY (2014); “Dan Colen: Psychic Slayer,” HEART—Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (2015).