Exhibition: Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011

Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011
January 12-February18,2012
Gagosian Gallery
980 Madison Avenue, 555 West 24th Street, 522 West 21st Street

Both reviled and heralded, gawked and marveled at, the famous-for-being-infamous artist (or “artist” with full airquotes, as some might say), Damien Hirst, is certainly a consistent hot topic fixture within the contemporary art world. An enfant terrible and member of the Young British Artists, Hirst’s work typically consists of a rather basic idea (shark in formaldehyde or diamond-encrusted skull, anyone?), one that usually garners the “I could have done that” sentiment, feeling overblown and even, at times, ridiculous. He provokes an opinionated passion in art lovers and neophytes alike, and his work still continues to be sought after by art collectors and for public consumption.

And why? Because there is still something attractive, rather magnetic, about his work, perhaps for much of the same reasons he is reviled. Also, people sometimes just want to know why one of his works costs almost $20 million. Lastly, a simple concept it may be, Hirst is, at times, able to execute the idea with a healthy dose of aesthetically-pleasing composition as seen with his meticulously arranged pill installations or butterfly paintings.

Hirst’s latest show commemorates twenty-five years of his love of color as seen with his spot paintings. A worldwide exhibit showing over 300 of these paintings is taking place across all eleven Gagosian locations in eight cities: three galleries here in New York, and in London, Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Athens, Geneva and Hong Kong. Hirst, who claims he was always a colorist, wanted to just pin down the joy of color and create a structure for which to move colors around and “do nothing.” With these, he does it quite well. Walking through the Gagosian at the 24th Street location, one does feel nothing, seeing pretty-colored dots arranged neatly within a square canvas, and then some arranged within a circle canvas. However, it’s when reaching the last room, with very high ceilings with very large dot paintings to match, so large that at times there are only four dots to a canvas, that the feeling of being quite small and almost shrunken down in size, do the paintings become more interesting and the arrangement of the colors more engaging, especially in contrast to the nothing that one feels in the earlier rooms.

Anyway, all of this nonsense is only an appetizer to the big show, the first major retrospective of his work at the Tate Modern in London this coming April. The more outrageous and provocative works will surely be saved for then.

-Janet Kim

Image: (C) Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2011. Photography by Prudence Cuming Associates

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