'I started using the gum like paint. Certain canvases would have gum stretched from the center outward, creating 'hypnotic' spirals. I've also done a series of Bazooka Joe joke paintings, with the comics stuck to the gum. But most of the pieces are just about playing with the gum and building up layers until they finish themselves. They turn into a mess but remain beautiful (in my eyes)... I'm in a special, or at least particular, place right now that allows me to be very playful with my work... My conceptual development and working processes function differently without due dates-not for better or worse, just for a change of pace. Because of this situation these gum paintings were almost able to make themselves. I fell in love with them immediately'
(D. Colen, quoted in A. Kellner, 'Suck On This', in Vice Magazine [http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/suck-this-v15n1]).
Playful and brazen, Untitled, 2010 is an energetic blend of the real world and the abstract. Scattering a multitude of brightly coloured chewed pieces of gum across a vast surface of a traditional canvas in an explosion of primary colour, Dan Colen creates a fascinatingly dense, intricate and animated abstract surface, transforming a ubiquitous object of the everyday into a vibrant monument of urban modernity. In a witty inversion of trompe l'oeil that embraces the possibilities created in a post-Pop era of modern art, Untitled instantly recalls the revolutionary drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, and the automatism common amongst many Surrealist and avant-garde American painters. Harnessing the gestural energy of a performance piece and tethering it to the expressive immediacy of abstraction, the artist demonstrates his mischievous ability to surprise and engage the viewer.
Colen's work, which is often challenging and always spirited, draws liberally from art history, mass media and subcultures, imbuing the familiar with a provocative new status, imparting a decidedly contemporary interpretation on the art historical canon. Untitled presents us not only with quotations from art history, but also with fragments of the artist's immediate social and spatial surroundings. Speaking of this, Gunnar B. Kvaran, director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, remarked on the occasion of exhibiting Cohen's work, 'While [Colen's] large paintings may resemble abstract expressionistic paintings, representing the hey-day of American modernism, they are, in reality 'action paintings' made from chewing gum with all its connotations of artificiality, carelessness and purposelessness. In these self-referential works it is possible to enter a world of illusion. By mixing reality and fantasy, drama and frivolity, Colen exemplifies a nihilistic attitude and desire to escape. His superb realism is not only about the objects themselves, but about the added value of the discourses and representations of reality.' (G.B. Kvaran, Dan Colen, Peanuts, exh. cat., Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, 2011, p. 5). Mindful of the force with which popular culture is able to encapsulate the moment, Colen mines the everyday for both inspiration and his raw material. Engaging extensively with the urban environment, Colen's work creates narratives that revolve around the social fabric that determines contemporary life. Cultivating both elements of spectacle and chance in transforming this into art, Colen's frequently subtle subversive work is a hedonistic celebration of the prosaic.
Over the past decade Colen has come to prominence as a leading light in an energetic community of young artists in downtown New York, informally known as the 'Bowery School', who include Ryan McGinley and Nate Lowman. With an oeuvre that spans painting, photography, sculpture and installation, Colen's innovative creativity has been recognized in his inclusion in international shows, at locations including the Royal Academy, London (2006), PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island, New York (2006), The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2006), The New Museum, New York (2010), and 'Peanuts,' Astrup Fearnley (2011).