Dan Colen has been dubbed in the past one of Warhol’s Children, a famous or notorious – depending on which critic you’re asking – New York post-pop prince. His earlier work was made of gum and simulation bird droppings, and although his artwork received heavy criticism for imitating or ridiculing artists and the high-art community, he continued to be successful and his career flourished. It seems there’s always a place for the unaffected artist-rock-star character type.
Recently, Colen has taken a more subdued approach to his practice. In light of the death of his good friend and artist contemporary Dash Snow, who died of an overdose in 2009, Colen has tried to curb his own lifestyle choices. This slow down is reflected in his artwork, namely his current exhibition at Gagosian: Miracle Paintings. Perhaps in the context of another artist, paintings of star streams and neon explosions would be a bold subject, but in comparison to his whoopee cushion installation Blowin in the wind, the medium is much more conventional and less provoking.
The feeling in the paintings is of excitement and solemnity. They’re easier to digest but still pack a visual punch. There’s life, death, and tranquility. It’s probably a pivotal moment in Colen’s career. Will he be able to remain successful without the contrarian stunts he is known for? It should also be considered that these paintings are much more pleasant to consume: Is he riding the comfort of his position in the New York art community, or pushing new personal boundaries? Personally I enjoy this series, but could also see how some of his fans might be disappointed in the relatively understated nature of the works.
Miracle Paintings is on at Gagosian until October 18th.