Home Magazine How Dana Gordon restored his spectators' faith in Art

As said by revered film artist Jonas Mekas in a letter to Dana Gordon in 1995: "What my little visit to your studio did, it restored my faith in art."  "While many artists paint widely, Gordon paints deeply. Gordon knows what only painting can do" wrote James Panero, art critic and editor of the New Criterion, in 2014.  

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The American painter Dana Gordon (born 1944, Boston, Massachusetts) has been widely acclaimed for many years. As far back as 1978 Linda Gross, in the Los Angeles Times, wrote that his work is "... for purists and pioneers in pursuit of new perceptions." 

In the New York Times esteemed art critic John Russell wrote in 1987 that Gordon's painting is"...well worth seeking out...a painter of whom it would be good to see more."  Art critic Helen Harrison wrote in the Times of Gordon's 1994 solo show, "...beautiful paintings, filled with the controlled exuberance of a carefully orchestrated spectacle."  And critic Grace Glueck in the NY Times wrote of Gordon's 1997 show at the renowned Andre Zarre Gallery in Soho: "... a very lively eyefest." More recently, David Cohen, editor of Art Critical, wrote on Gordon's 2018 Paris show, "Lucky Paris."

Gordon was an abstract painter right from the start, though "I occasionally draw from the figure to keep my hand loose and fresh," he says.  He began his art career in the early 1960s at Brown University, where he studied art history as well as studio art.  In 1967 he moved to New York City and became studio assistant to the epoch-making artist, Tony Smith.  He received his Masters Degree in art from Hunter College in New York 1969.

Figure 1. Dana Gordon, Fluxion 1, 2021. Courtesy of IdeelArt

From 1968 to 1979 Gordon made avant-garde films in addition to his painting.  Gordon had studied photography under Aaron Siskind.  These films have been shown internationally in festivals, including the renowned 1974 EXPRMNTL 5 at Knokke, and solo shows including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the filmotecas in Madrid and Barcelona.  

In the 1970s Gordon was a professor of art at the Universities of Michigan, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, and lectured at the Honolulu Museum of Art (where he also studied Chinese painting), London's St. Martins College of Art, and other venues.  In 1979 he returned to New York, where he has lived ever since. 

In 1974, after working for nine years on paintings of shaped canvas in three dimensions, the combination of painting and sculpture, Gordon says "I went back to the beginning, put a white chalk mark on a black piece of paper, and reinvented painting for myself, exploring mark-making on a flat surface from that basic genesis. I wanted the challenge of working purely with painting - no special materials or canvas shapes - and of measuring up to the long tradition that did that."  Painter Thornton Willis complemented Gordon's recent work for "the energy and the sheer mastery of the marks."

As a youth in Chicago, Gordon spent much time at the Art Institute - especially studying its famed Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection as well as de Kooning's masterpiece "Excavation" - and attending studio classes.  In his teens, he says, "I saw Miles Davis and John Coltrane playing live at the jazz clubs.  What they were doing was creative thinking in real time it gave me an intimate understanding of artistic creativity.  I also saw affinities to their playing in Abstract Expressionism in painting."

Dana Gordon's first New York solo show of painting was at the Ericson Gallery in 1982.  Since then he had multiple solo shows at historic galleries such as Andre Zarre and 55 Mercer in Soho and Sideshow in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  In addition, since 2015 IdeelArt has represented his work online.

In 1993 Dana Gordon was one of the principal founders of The Painting Center in New York.  In the same year one of his paintings was reproduced as the front cover of the Paris Review (issue 129).  He was appointed Distinguished Visiting Artist at New York's Adelphi University in 1994.

Figure 2. Dana Gordon, Endless Painting 2, 2014. Courtesy of IdeelArt

Gordon's work is in many public and private collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Royal Belgian Film Archive.  His art has received awards from the Pollock Krasner Foundation (in one of its first years), Rauschenberg's Change Foundation, the Wisconsin Arts Foundation, residencies at the Edward Albee Foundation, the Millay Colony, the Triangle Workshop, Next in Graz, Austria, and university research grants, among others.

Gordon has also written about art for The Wall Street Journal, The New Criterion, Commentary, The New York Sun, Delicious Line, The Jerusalem Post, and Painters' Table.

In Gordon's words:

"What inspires me to paint? Everything.  To paint I get into a frame of mind where I can bring everything to bear on the moment of painting.  A specific subject is too limiting.  The subject develops during the process; painting is comprehensive and open-ended. I use abstract form because it underlies all visual art; it is full of content, intellect, and feeling."

Dana Gordon. Election Day, 2022. Courtesy of IdeelArt

Cover image: Dana Gordon, Pulse (Ref 01), 2010. Courtesy of IdeelArt

Written by: IdeelArt

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