Anton van Dalen, Unity, 1990, oil on canvas
P·P·O·W contemporary art gallery presents ‘Doves: Where They Live and Work,’ a solo exhibition by Anton van Dalen. In his works, Van Dalen explores his visual relationship to birds and nature, depicting birds as a symbol of migration, freedom, peace, and community.
Born in Amstelveen, Holland in 1938, van Dalen found solace, in the wake of World War II, in the companionship of birds and began rearing pigeons at the age of 12. Enraptured by the magic of their flight, van Dalen saw his own migration journey, from Holland to Canada and ultimately to the United States, reflected in the migratory nature of the birds. As a new arrival to New York City’s East Village in 1966, van Dalen felt in many ways that he had entered yet another war zone. Amid the city’s financial crisis, he felt compelled by his personal history to use his training as a graphic designer to document the rampant political corruption, police violence, crack and AIDS epidemics, and homelessness ravaging his neighborhood and the whole city.
Alongside this societal documentation, van Dalen also honed his visual relationship to birds and nature. Since 1989, van Dalen has been working on Doves: Where They Live and Work, depicting the anthropomorphized daily activities of doves. For van Dalen, the beauty of these animals’ lives acts as a model for our own. Throughout the course of his life and artistic practice, van Dalen has sought to emulate his avian companions’ ability to find home and peace wherever their community lands. Deftly utilizing birds as a symbol of migration, freedom, peace, and community, van Dalen offers an optimistic counterpoint to his observations of the violence, disconnection, and destruction of human society. Focusing on these dual visual commitments for the first time, Doves: Where They Live and Work reveals that not only studying what is bad in the world, but what is already beautiful and good, can be an important part of the work of social change and political action.
Born in Holland in 1938 to a conservative Calvinist family, Anton van Dalen witnessed firsthand the terrors of both technological and human destruction during World War II. Since immigrating to New York in 1966 and settling in the East Village, van Dalen has served as witness, storyteller, and documentarian of the dramatic cultural shifts in the neighborhood through his masterfully honed and singular iconography. Van Dalen has been included in group exhibitions at notable institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; New Museum, New York; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; and the New York Historical Society. He has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at P·P·O·W, New York; Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia; University Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Exit Art, New York.