DAG @ Can Gallery
by Leah Finch, New Art Examiner
Just as this young and promising exhibition space on the Northwest side of Chicago was starting to get set up and running smoothly they've had to close shop and go on hiatus until a new location can be secured. In an exhibition titled „Doping“, DAG, a Berlin-based painter and disk jockey, mounted a collection of sleek, modest-sized paintings, modest-length videos, and one graphic installation for the closing show at the gallery's Wicker Park location.
DAG's paintings were almost never installed at eye-level. Sometimes alone, but often grouped just above or way below a viewer's horizon or hovering in a corner, the square paintings present playful collections of dots, bars, strokes, ellipses, lozenges, fields of color, and stripes. Layers of these elements are composed in arrangements best described as having tempo, rhythm, timbre, and cadence; the work is invested in a visual language that is articulated like music is played.
There is no conceptual claim here; rather, this is process-based work that does not seek to teach, challenge, or offend. The themes of the show were formal – a bright palette, sleek design elements, and insistent overlapping. Like a DJ selects and mixes samples of music, DAG gathers together what he considers the best bits of popular visual culture and design, and layers them. He does not muse over the meaning of every stroke but instead finds his aesthetic groove and rides it, canvas after canvas.
Each composition is as hip and tasteful as the next, no one painting was the star of the show, not even the large wall installation of a constellation of orange and red circle-shaped stickers. Some of the images even seemed a bit dull when imagined apart from the rhythmic context of the whole collection. Deep contemplation of any single canvas was unrewarding, as DAG refused any sensuality in his use of material, which tends to be flat in both dimension and luster. Texture is expressed only through an occasional dense cluster of pen scribbles. Still there is a charming Modernist savvy to the work.
In a cubicle, a television screen showed a compilation of video pieces that DAG made with several different German video artists. A rapid, percussive audio beat drew me closer to the monitor where I saw DAG's paintings in action. His distinctive colors and shapes flashed on the screen, element by element, synched with the quick tempo of borrowed techno tracks. Animated circles, grids, bands, arcs, and solids snake, jump, spread, and interlace across the screen in a pulse so insistent I was glad I am not prone to seizures.
I imagine DAG creating his visual language the same way an accomplished jazz musician plays solos – isolating a phrase and then intuitively riffing on it. I left the show with little memory of any particular image, but with a sense of an artist confident in his understanding of playful composition.