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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Brazen and provocative Dan Colen is an artist whose pushes the boundaries of art. Drawing upon a myriad of cultural sources from contemporary subculture to Abstract Expressionist art, Colen examines undervalued objects of the modern day and forcing his viewers to reassess the way they perceive the world around them and how they understand art.

    Having first shot to fame in 2006 , when his work was exhibited in the bathroom of the Gagosian gallery in New York, Dan Colen has become one of the major forces within the group of young artists working in New York, informally known as ‘The Bowery School’ which also numbers the artists Ryan McGinley and Nate Lowman. His works have exhibited in numerous major collections including the Royal Academy, London 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).

    Composed of brightly coloured chewing gum, spread across a canvas It’s only natural, is a densely textured work and vibrant piece, which seems to seems to both radiate towards the viewer while also seductively tempting us to touch its surface. One of a series of chewing gum paintings, this work perfectly epitomizes the artist’s playful and provocative style. In using chewing gum as though it were paint, the artist not only cheekily challenges common notions of painting, presenting a new and decidedly modern direction for art practice, but also turns a ubiquitous object of the modern day into something surprising and beautiful, encouraging us to reconsider the possibilities of the undervalued and common place. Indeed much of Colen’s art centers on transforming objects in a startling and novel manner, often - as in the case of It’s Only natural - adapting media so that they seem to resemble other objects. During his career the artist has made oil paint seem like bird droppings, flowers resemble jets of ink and papier-mâché imitates stone boulders.

    In the case of It’s only natural the use of gum as paint inverts the idea of trompe l'oeil (whereby a paint is made to look like an object) thereby seeming to turn art history on its head. It is when the artist is transforming and manipulating media to challenge conventions that his work is at its wittiest and most potent. It’s only natural thus stands as a clear paradigm of the artist’s style. Many consider Colen’s work to project a sense of randomness and accident. This is further supported by the artist statement: "Certain canvases would have gum stretched from the center outward, creating ‘hypnotic’ spirals…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 fell in love with them immediately".

    Despite this, the chewing gum works are anything but random, having emerged from a number of laborious experiments undertaken by the artist. Before finding his current method of melting down chewing gum, to produce a more maleble and paint-like consistency,easier to spread across the canvas Colen and his assistants would painstakingly chew pieces of gum – chosen from a long list of flavours- before applying them individually to a board. With its masterly strokes and highly textured surface, It’s Only Natural marks a mature point in the artist chewing gum pieces.

    Fascinated by contemporary culture and its offshoots, in his gum paintings Colen makes reference to skate parks and their gum encrusted surfaces. "I started working with gum because it was just on those rock sculptures; it was like another piece of evidence that someone was here…similar to the marks on a skate ramp, those are the proof that the skateboarders were there...The paintings came out of those." In this sense It’s only natural bear a clear link to contemporary practices and interests and yet the intricate heavy surface texture of the work also harks back to the art of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Like these artists Colen holds an explorative and zealous energy, forever testing the possibilities of media and art practice. There is no greater testimony to this than It’s only natural.

  • Artist Biography

    Dan Colen

    American • 1979

    American artist Dan Colen has spent most of his career asking himself questions about the editorial decisions artists have to make when creating a scene from scratch on canvas. In his early work, Colen painted mundane interiors punctuated with fantastical elements. This manifested as part of a growing curiosity in the ethereal or divine intervention.

    Colen subsequently stepped away from paint as material and started using found objects as mediums with which to paint. Among these, Colen has used chewing gum, street trash, confetti, feathers, flowers and dirt. This methodology allows Colen to abandon control and create in a more free-form, subconscious manner.

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It's Only Natural (The Replacement)

chewing gum on canvas
160 x 120 cm. (62 7/8 x 47 1/4 in.)

£200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm