(American, b.1979) is a multimedia neo-Pop artist who has made quite a name for himself with his unique painted sculptures, gum paintings, and installations. He was born and raised in Leonia, NJ. His father, sculptor Sy Colen, gave him art lessons at a young age. Before deciding to become an artist, Colen wanted to be a skateboarder, or a professional basketball player in the NBA. Neither of these ambitions worked out for Colen, and so he decided to go to art school. He graduated with a BFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Art and Design in 2001, and he then headed to New York City. During his early career, Colen set up a studio in his grandfather’s antiques shop by Coney Island, where he painted photorealistic fantasy images. At this time, Colen also began creating his series of candle paintings, which were inspired by Disney stills and differ greatly from the works for which he is most well-known. The artist later began experimenting with different media including spray paint, chewing gum, and confetti. In 2006, he held his first major show called Potty Mouth Potty War
in the bathrooms of the Gagosian Gallery
, New York, NY, where his works sold instantly.
Colen’s works consist of a variety of abstract and traditional imagery with rebellious, religious, fantastical, and in some ways offensive undertones. His installation piece entitled No Me
(2006), which opened at Peres Projects Kreuzberg in Berlin, was the subject of some controversy throughout Germany. Colen’s poster advertising this exhibition showed the artist in the nude except for a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) hanging from his erect penis. Being a Jewish American, he meant no disrespect; the artist’s work is an expression of who he is. Colen also frequently collaborated with friends and fellow artists including Nate Lowman
(b.1979), Ryan McGinley
(b.1977), and Dash Snow
(1981–2009). One of Colen’s most famous installation collaborations with Snow is Nest
(2007). Two years after this installation was created, Snow died from an overdose; the loss of this friend had a great effect on Colen and his art. He has since then exhibited in England, Italy, and Norway. Colen continues to work from his New York City studio.