521 W 21st Street
NEW YORK—An exhibition of paintings by Dan Walsh opens at 521 West 21st Street on Saturday, January 9, 2021. Celebrated for his work across a range of media including sculpture, bookmaking, drawing and installation, Walsh has traced a particular trajectory in painting since the 1990s. Working with a focused vocabulary of unit-based forms—including lines, circles, grids and rectangles—he systematically layers brushstrokes according to defined sets of rules that yield complex compositions. The presentation at Paula Cooper Gallery includes work made between 2014 and 2020, highlighting the artist’s prolific and expansive output in the medium of painting.
In his recent interview with art critic Jennifer Samet, Walsh spoke of his painting practice: “Into the 2000s, I started to fill my surfaces with marks. The mark-making became more fluid and I was getting into transparency. There was some articulation and specificity that I had stumbled into. As these marks came together more, I started thinking about textiles, and how things fit together with an acknowledgement of sewing and weaving […] The ideas behind how Tibetan mandalas functioned folded into my dialogue. I think of the paintings as meditative for me, but hopefully also meditative for the viewer. With Tibetan mandalas, you are trying to keep your mind in the present while looking at something. There is a quality of vibration and opticality. Le Corbusier called a house a machine for living. I think of the paintings as a machine for looking, and for seeing.”
Among the works on view are two forty-inch square paintings from 2018 titled Site and Plot. Though schematically very similar, the paintings generate distinct perceptual effects through Walsh’s acute modulations of color and discrete compositional shifts. Forms alternately advance or recede to create a grounded, serene visual field in one and vibrant choreography in the other. As in his 2014 painting Exchange, the lozenge mark is used consistently across the canvas—stretched, stacked, layered, and turned within a gridded matrix. Other later works in the show demonstrate a subtle expansion in Walsh’s keen manipulation of his formal lexicon. Arcs and lines overlap with chromatic brilliance in his 2020 painting Eclipse, evoking references to cellular biology or electric modules. Yet, as in his other works, Walsh’s brushstrokes retain a hand-drawn quality that activates his images with an implicit humanism.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1960, Dan Walsh received his BA from Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) and his MFA from Hunter College in New York City. His work has been exhibited at institutions around the world, including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City; the New Museum in New York; the Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Nice; the Speerstra Foundation in Lausanne; the RISD Museum of Art in Providence; the Rønnebaeksholm, Naestved; the Villa du Parc, Annemasse; and the Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz. His prints and limited-edition books were the subject of a one-person exhibition at the Cabinet des Estampes in Geneva, Switzerland. He was also included in the Ljubljana Biennial, Slovenia, the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art, France (both 2003), and the Whitney Biennial in Spring 2014. In 2016 Walsh collaborated with his sister, Lexa Walsh, for a two-person exhibition titled “Both Sides Now” at Williams College Museum of Art. In 2019 Walsh was the subject of ten-year retrospective at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht in the Netherlands, co-organized by Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. His work is represented in important public collections including the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The artist lives and works in New York City.