Anton van Dalen is back with simultaneous solo shows at downtown galleries. Roughly one year after “New Works and the Avenue A Cut-Out Theatre” at PPOW Gallery, van Dalen presents work in a range of media at Romeo and Sargent’s Daughters. His vision encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture, animation, and environments, recapitulating 50 years of exhibition history for today’s emerging galleries and their audiences.
Both shows are exquisite, but most impressive are van Dalen’s graphite drawings in The Devil’s Veil at Romeo. Created in 2005-6 and uniform in scale, they reveal a collage sensibility organized by crisp Euclidean geometry. Into schematic plans that read like maps or flow charts, he plugs logos, facial features, and the human figure. In one thread of the series, a circular head seems to ride atop carriage wheels. Like Pac-Man, it gobbles everything in its path, which mostly includes token brand identities. These logos track along assembly-line paths as they cycle into and out from the rolling head’s sensory nodes. Van Dalen’s behaviorist man-machine is ensnared in a cycle of consumption and perception, perception and consumption: “I chomp, therefore I am.” Powered by Pop and enviable draftsmanship, van Dalen summons up Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, J.G. Ballard, James Rosenquist, and De Stijl design.
At Sargent’s Daughters, van Dalen presents Inside Out, Home and Place, an eclectic and colorful counterpart to the Romeo show that renews some of the artist’s vintage work. Bird Car (1987) is the centerpiece, a faux-mobile pigeon coop repopulated with live birds. It’s no match for his vigorous drawings, but pigeons are inseparable from the artist’s repertoire and biography. The real gem of the show is Flowers in My Eye (1965), a surreal animated video combing humanity and nature. Given the serial production of van Dalen’s drawings at Romeo, one can only wonder when animation might call him back.