Dana Gordon by Alice Neel, 1972
Since I began visiting him in his studio a decade ago, Dana Gordon has been working through a particular abstract construction that positions a color form within a grid. While many artists paint widely, Gordon paints deeply. He has been singularly dedicated to understanding the possibilities of this particular idiom.
Dana Gordon, Untitled (2011, oil on linen, 72x60 inches)
The gradual evolution of his work has become an art project in itself. I can think of few artists who are as thoughtful in examining the building blocks of oil on canvas. Gordon does not take short cuts. He is unconcerned about the commercial viability of his work. He is rather dedicated to the conversation of art—a visual conversation that is articulated through basic colors, shapes, and lines. This approach—informed by painterly intelligence—gets reflected in his paintings as well as in the sensitive essays he has written for several publications on his primary inspiration, Camille Pissarro.
Rather than exhaust a simple language, Gordon has demonstrated how a few basic elements can captivate us with a kaleidoscope of visual interest. His paintings only get more arresting over time. “My recent work," he says, "is such a solid integration of all that has gone before in my work (and in my life experience, and my experience of prior art) and is so full of potential, that I can find plenty of inspiration through it.”
I find plenty of inspiration through it as well. This latest work is stunning. As he traces out a grid that is much denser than in pervious work, his shapes take on new shimmering qualities. The work reminds me of stained glass, or perhaps Orphic Cubism. These Orphic investigations into shape and color have led him to create some of the best paintings of his career.
Gordon is a regular at the annual group exhibition at Sideshow, the seminal Williamsburg gallery, where he now has a work on view. (Look for my essay on Sideshow in the forthcoming February issue of The New Criterion.) Opening this Thursday, Gordon will also take part in “What Only Paint Can Do,” a group exhibition curated by Karen Wilkin at the Triangle Arts Association in Dumbo. For Gordon, the show's arresting title is a statement of fact. Gordon knows what only painting can do, and it's a delight to see what his paintings do for us.