New YorkDana James: Something I Meant to Say
Hollis Taggart presents Something I Meant to Say, artist Dana James’s first solo exhibition since she joined the gallery’s contemporary program in January 2020.
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James’s abstract compositions are characterized by their incredible use of light, which shifts fluidly across her brilliant pastel color fields, catching iridescent pigments, and into darker swaths of splotched, recycled canvas. Her acute focus on the light results in works that almost glow, giving her paintings a magical effect that connotes the shimmer of the ocean or the sparkle of childhood memories of enchantment. This emotional impact is at the core of James’s practice, which is grounded in notions of time, memory, selfhood, and the inherent dualities that shape us and our worlds.
Contrast is an essential aspect of James’s vision, whether those contrasts are the visual and physical interactions of her many disparate materials or in the conceptual contradictions she evokes between the past and the present, the aesthetics of traditionally femininity and perceived symbols of darkness, or between our exterior and interior worlds. For James, these alternations speak to the vast and mysterious nature of life and memory and it is that mystery that she seeks to hold within her practice and inside her luminescent abstract paintings.
In her most recent works, approximately 10 of which will be featured in the forthcoming show, James collages new and recycled pieces of canvas. These pieces provide distinctly different visual effects—from the clean and shining to the dark and almost dirty—but perhaps more importantly, these collaged components offer a compilation of history that both literally and figuratively contain the process of making and experimenting. Of this approach James says, “The strips [of canvas] act as a panorama of linear time; they serve as a reminder that we are small and predictable creatures, incessantly creating and shedding beautiful accounts of the earth and its elements. Upon completion, they are visual diaries that speak to contradiction. I am able to translate memory most accurately when I acknowledge it as its own, self-governing medium.”
James’s approach is also open and fluid. Her canvases evolve organically as she shapes and reshapes both the surface and physical scale and contours of her paintings. This process includes both addition and erasure, with painterly marks made and scraped away, expansive canvases cut down to small focal pieces and joined with other pieces or even portions of the tarp on which she is working. In this way, James’s paintings behave like an endless landscape, with the fields of color connecting across her works into what can be seen as one long view of time passing and the experiences and emotions held within those moments.
Since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2008, Dana James’s work has been exhibited extensively and can be found in private and public collections in New York City and around the world. Recent solo and two-person shows include Otherwise All Was Silent (Bode Projects, Berlin, 2020); The Thread, Dana James and Lizbeth Mitty (David & Schweitzer Contemporary, Brooklyn NY, 2019); and Sometimes Seen Dreams (The Lodge Gallery, Lower East Side, NY, 2017). James has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions throughout the U.S., including Contemporary Women Paint: Abstract Expressions (Des Moines, IA, 2020); Sound & Color (SugarLift with the High Line Nine, Chelsea, NY, 2020); Look Again (Hollis Taggart Contemporary, Southport, CT, 2020); Refract Mere (Marquee Projects, Bellport, LI, 2020); and Taggart Times 7, (Hollis Taggart Contemporary, Chelsea, NY, 2020). James was recently listed in Top 20 Artists Shaping the New Decade by Daily Collector. Sometimes Seen Dreams was featured in the Art Critical Review Panel, and her two-person show The Thread was chosen as “must-see exhibition” by New York Magazine.
Courtesy of the artist and Hollis Taggart