Photo: Eric Piasecki. Courtesy Gagosian
After successful online viewing room experiences for Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze NY, Gagosian have carried on with a weekly Artist Spotlight program, that has put the focus each time on a solitary work by one of their rather impressively high-profile talents. It has arguably helped to maintain a sense of energy in an art world that has been obviously stifled by the current pandemic.
We were particularly intrigued for the inclusion of a new Dan Colen work, from his environmentally poignant HELP exhibition, interrupted in March by the coronavirus crisis. The NJ-born, RISD educated painter has long explored the intersection of medium and message, ever questioning the motivations behind the works—trying to help us to understand why, exactly, artists create art. But here he expounds on a more egalitarian inspiration, offering a visual representation of his Upstate New York Sky High Farm project, which provides nutritious produce and protein for underserved communities in the region.
“My work with the farm influences my creative practice more and more,” he explains, coming back to his artistic raison d’être. “In my most recent paintings the idea of ‘help’ is at their focus: ‘help’ drifts through the ocean, allowing us to consider our relationship to it from all angles. For me it’s something which demands attention and intention, asking for help, being of help.”
Image courtesy of Gagosian.com
He admits his own difficulties with the very notions giving and receiving, claiming he mostly has to be provoked into that state. But he also notes that such openness is essential to his current creative process. Especially at such an urgent moment for the health of both humanity and the planet—as well as that of our economic order.
“The emergence of COVID-19 has exposed the true magnitude of socioeconomic inequity inherent in our social systems,” he points out, “and the fragility and limitations of the very programs designed to address it. Even before the current global health crisis, food insecurity throughout New York State was deepening. Although New York’s agricultural industry represents nearly $5 billion in sales with production across 23% of the state’s geographic land area, more than 2.4 million New Yorkers continue to suffer from food insecurity, including more than 900,000 children.”