Dan Colen: Peres Projects
Brooks, Amra, Artforum International
Dan Colen's Secrets and Cymbals, Smoke and Scissors (My Friend Dash's Wall in the Future), 2004-2006, is a life-size sculpture of a wall from a twentysomething's garage or studio. Based on a scene also pictured in a photograph by "Dash" (the artist Dash Snow) himself, the sculpture re-creates a visually chaotic surface plastered with posters and photographs, magazine covers and pornographic images, knives and rubber gloves. Colen has crafted all of these things, and many more, from Styrofoam, paint, paper, and metal, even reproducing the wall's infrastructure. But while many other contemporary artists also produce exacting renditions of photographic sources, Secrets and Cymbals fails to arouse the pathos at which it seems to aim. The point of his reproducing a Black Flag CD cover, say, remains obscure.
While Colen's process is as painstaking as Dave Muller's or Tim Gardener's, for instance, his work contains none of their oeuvres' longing or admiration. Secrets and Cymbals may be presented as a tribute of sorts, but the relics it immortalizes are neither unreconstructedly heroic nor provocatively antiheroic--they're simply ordinary. And while the notion of a conscientious documentation of a particular time and place has its validity, Colen's project stops well short of ruminating usefully on the presence or absence of nostalgia. The title's reference to the future is correspondingly confusing, since in no sense do these images constitute a meaningful speculation on the shape of things to come. …