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Dan Colen Review

Ben Hodgkiss sinks his teeth into the Cult of Youth

Published on July 5th 2011.

Dan Colen Review

DASH Snow was a personality and a provocateur. Wild and reckless, tender and caring, he was a young man who turned his back on his family and their social standing to pursue the lifestyle that beckoned to him, and, in so, he managed to turn his life into a work of art. Often imitated, he managed to keep his fervent enemies and audiences guessing as to what his next move may be. On July 13th 2009, he died of a drugs overdose. Dan Colen, friend, collaborator, confident and fellow inciter to Snow, creates work concerned with the Cult Of Youth; their habits, hang-ups, rituals, miscalculations and  innocence lost. His works display poorly graffitied wastelands, littered with escapism paraphernalia and Disney iconography. As a form of catharsis, grieving and a celebration of life, it seems only natural Colen should channel Snow’s frantic verve and dedicate his works and shows to his continued memory and the frenzy of his spirit.

Dan Colen, friend, collaborator, confident and fellow inciter to Snow, creates work concerned with the Cult Of Youth; their habits, hang-ups, rituals, miscalculations and  innocence lost.

The title of his latest show at the Carlson Gallery, ‘Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are’, suggests an air of playfulness, the thrill of the chase and the danger involved in living on borrowed time. Upon entering the Carlson Gallery space, you are confronted by two pieces. The first, ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’, was a huge canvas covered in tar and feathers, which brought to mind Colen’s Birdshit Paintings, as well as the Colen and Snow’s previous project together, NEST (the act of literally turning a space into a human nest and de-evolving into a much more self serving state). It also made me think of tarring and feathering as a notion of punishment, juxtaposed against the song from Disney’s Songs Of The South and the lyrics ‘My, oh my what a wonderful day!’

Standing before that, a diminished monolith of varying dimensions, was ‘Infinite Jest’; a sculpture comprised of stacked copies of Youth International Party founder, Abbie Hoffman’s, infamous work ‘Steal This Book’. The piece served as a needle in the side of convention, literally begging all those that lay eyes upon it to break the boundaries between life and art, and interact with the sculpture, I was also taken by the irony of the book’s inclusion; if a little tenuous, Hoffman was a known associate of Ben Morea of Black Mask (and other pseudonyms), who famously provided Valerie Solanas with the gun she shot Andy Warhol with. I found this poetic when considering that Snow, Colen and third conspirator, Ryan McGinley, were once given the titles, ‘Warhol’s Children’, by New York magazine. This further illustrated Snow’s estrangement from any and all of his supposed background and classifications.

A trio of photos saw Colen topless. The first showed him attempting to attach a rusty pin badge to his naked flesh, then the second showed him pierced and bleeding and finally, the third image displayed the aftermath of bloody and scarred flesh. The small badge read ‘Nobody For President’ and resembled one you may see on the leather lapel of a biker’s jacket, echoing the outlaw style in which Snow was known to dress. The slogan was also reminiscent of the anti-establishment lexicon and iconography his work was heavily concerned with.  Nihilistic, yet not without consideration, this self-harming act could be seen as a way of siphoning healthy disregard, in a sort of ‘what-the-hell-no-tomorrow-come-what-may’ attitude, and also as a self sacrifice, so he could once again feel the warmth of his friend’s burnt out flame.

An ominous looking room lurked in the corner; decorated and littered in themes of bondage, escapes, restraints, breaking and entering, plundering and pillaging and secrets – the means of keeping things in, the means of keeping things out, and another take on the idea of the exhibitions title. Broken padlocks, bolt cutters, a large trunk, a defeated safe, ball gags, chains, whips were the major features, posing as trophies of midnight liberation and inebriation. They represent the other lifestyle, that we politely pretend doesn’t exist – stories from behind closed doors, sex and drugs and elicit behaviour. The handcuffs are a sexual escape, yet also a symbol of wrongdoing and captivity. The crucifix represents religion, another form of control. In this orgy of imagery and iconography, we are shown that maintaining a ‘line’ can be difficult; too easily we succumb to temptation and to ourselves. Overlooking the carnage, hung one lone piece entitled, ‘Good And Evil’, which was reminiscent of Colen’s ‘Chewing Gum’ paintings as well as one of Snow’s works, which incorporated glitter and semen. Here the white canvas was speckled with coloured confetti. Fallen pieces lay beautifully and chaotically, without rhyme or reason or any grand plan. Colen manifested Snow’s outlook and approach, a literal case of art imitating life. The exhibition served as a reminder of past celebration and light and darkness. It addressed the push a pull between personal and public personas, intricacies and complexities, harsh realities, whims and fancies and, perhaps most strikingly, the idea that the show must always go on.


More Information

‘Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are’ by Dan Colen will run until 29th July.

Carlson Gallery

6 Heddon Street



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