Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Dan Colen – “Allegory of Faith” @ Gagosian

Posted in Reviews by caryncoleman on February 9, 2009

picture-7-767070A lone bench sits isolated amongst a lush purple-and-blue haze forest at dusk, it’s warmly inviting but also a bit scary. This concrete crystal ball beckons alluringly to all those who approach to peer into the past as well as glimpse into the future; to see who has come before and who has yet still come to pass. For this particular scene we see the dust lingering from Cinderella recent departure thanks to her fairy godmother but for the rest of us we remain fixed. Standing in front of this moment captured in Dan Colen’s painting Untitled (Allegory of Faith), one that both freezes and transcends time, the bench becomes a clear marker of our own past, present, and future.

Colen has produced a surprisingly immersive environment in his debut solo exhibition Allegory of Faith at Gagosian’s oblong glass-plated storefront on Davie’s Street (where visitors easily become as viewing accessible as the art). The show is comprised of three components: the aforementioned painting, drawings, and a photography booklet. All three merge together in regards to issues of absence, solitude, and time. On one end of the room sit the sketches Colen hopes to realize into future artworks and on the other end of the room, piled on a plinth, are the stack of booklets featuring photographs of similar park benches to the one in the painting. It’s all very nice but it’s the painting that truly succeeds. Like a visual vortex it practically renders the other two elements nearly invisible and superfluous. It’s a brilliant moment when one painting is all we need.

So the fairy dust came and transported Cinderella away (where we do not know). As for us, the setting sun transformed Colen’s pieces beyond static works in the gallery into a vibrant and living entity. Unquestionably they are dark with a tinge of wistful sadness. And yet they are charged with the possibility of, well, the possible. Really, who knows where life may take us, who we’ll meet along the way, and how it will unfold? But alone in the proverbial forest, absent of any figures but full of life, is magic symbolic bench where anything is possible.

Dan Colen – Allegory of Faith
December 18, 2008 – February 7, 2009
Gagosian, London (Davies Street)
Image: courtesy of Gagosian

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