Sunday, April 06, 2008

Daan van Golden

508 West 26th Street, 8th Floor
March 20–April 19

Art historian Svetlana Alpers’s observation about golden-age painters, that “it is hard to trace stylistic development, as we are trained to call it, in the work of Dutch artists,” applies to reclusive septuagenarian artist Daan van Golden. This exhibition, his first US solo presentation despite his being greatly esteemed in Europe, surveys canvases made in the last fifteen years but is representative of an extremely focused practice that has lasted over four decades. In 1963, while in Japan, the artist abandoned Abstract Expressionist painting in favor of the meticulous rendition of patterns found in the world, such as on textiles or wrapping paper. Like his late-seventeenth-century forebears, his worshipful fidelity to observed reality admits little mechanical innovation. But the spoils he translates to canvas have expanded to include other artworks, a decision that adds a complex metaphysical dimension to his single-color silhouettes crisply outlined against white grounds. The paintings, tantalizingly aloof, hover between acknowledged artistic strategies. They are committed to neither Pop art nor appropriation nor Conceptual art, but rather only to mirroring fragments of the world.

One must calibrate minute variations across multiple works, and this elegantly installed show, organized by Anne Pontégnie, generously facilitates that process. On a long wall opposite the gallery’s entrance, four cadmium-red-on-white depictions of a berries-and-leaves pattern vary not only in size but also in perspectival distance, such that the images range from an allover field emphasizing the pattern’s repetition to a zoomed-in, nearly abstract accretion of organic shapes. Like rotating the lenses on a microscope, glancing from work to work discloses new information about van Golden’s source material. In a side room, Study H. M., 2004, isolates a bird from a canvas by Henri Matisse. On returning to the gallery’s main room, one is immediately confronted by the same image on a negligibly larger canvas, this time a white silhouette isolated against baby blue. (The artist allows himself to paint up to four iterations of the exact same painting, further complicating the already blurry distinction between real and copy hinted at here.) Other works depict a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti and details of Jackson Pollock paintings, and two photographs hint at a parallel practice that has commanded van Golden’s attention equally, sometimes to the exclusion of his superb, already unhurried painting output.

—Brian Sholis


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