Referring to a painting of a silhouetted Giacometti sculpture on a white canvas, Dutch artist Daan van Golden told Modern Painters in 2005, “It took me a long time to think about that painting, then two hours to paint it and then a year and a half to think about whether it was good.” A similar work, Study Alberto Giacometti II/IV (2007), was in his recent exhibition at Greene Naftali, the first American solo for a septuagenarian who represented the Netherlands at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Primarily a painter, van Golden has also used other mediums; this show included 10 paintings and two photographs. Throughout, his work exhibits a deceptive simplicity that masks an almost frightening precision and deliberation.
In the early 1960s, van Golden departed from his previous abstract-expressionist style when, in frustration after several unproductive months, he began reproducing wrapping paper designs on canvas. He later expanded his repertoire to include fabric patterns, including the floral and the geometric, and in the ‘80s began basing paintings on works by his artistic heroes, including Matisse and Pollock. The two approaches were represented in this show, which thus touched on Pop, appropriation and conceptual art while not entirely belonging in any of those camps.
Two canvases, both about 5 by 3 feet and both titled Study H.M. (2002 and 2004), reproduce the simplified profile of a parakeet from Matisse’s La Perruche et la Sirène (1952), a motif van Golden has repeated over the years. One canvas shows a white shape on a blue background, the other a red bird on a white ground. (He usually restricts himself to red, blue, black, gold or white, a decision based in part on his admiration for Yves Klein.) The bird’s outline is slightly serrated, a detail that reflects the image’s source in a catalogue reproduction.
Two other canvases of roughly the same size, Study Pollock (1998) and Study Pollock IV/IV (2006), each reproduce, in black on white and red on white respectively, tiny details from that painter’s works. Cropped and enlarged, the detail in the later painting appears almost figurative; a leaning cross shape even suggests a Deposition, with the form at lower left becoming a stooped mourner. By contrast, several paintings made between 1993 and 2007 move from figuration to abstraction by zooming in on a motif. Titled Heerenlux (with various subtitles), after a brand of paint the artist uses, they reproduce in red on white a leaves-and-fruit textile pattern. A 1993 canvas shows an allover floral pattern; in the newer works, imagery yields to pure form.
Study Dürer (2007), a 3-by-2-foot C-print, takes a considerably lighter approach. In a decorative gold frame is a reproduction of a Dürer study of a bird’s wing, which van Golden hand colored. At the wing’s edge, subtle to the verge of imperceptible, the artist has drawn in the silhouette of a human face, which makes the wing a feathered headdress. Around the outside of the photograph is a strip of fuzzy-looking pink and blue. According to gallery staff, the print was resting on the floor when he photographed it; that fuzz is the artist’s carpet.