MUSAC - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León / Avenida de los Reyes Leoneses, 24
ES-24008 Leon

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Under the title American Dreams, Dan Attoe (Bremerton, Washington, 1975) brings his first solo exhibition to Spain. In an installation of his mostly small-format paintings, the US artist will reveal his personal universe, where landscapes mixing reality and the imaginary are inhabited by characters whose identity is defined through the lifestyle symbols of American pop culture, with references to music, mass media and forays into the artist’s own identity.

The American landscape is a dominant theme throughout Dan Attoe’s paintings. His images, seeped in a sense of dreamlike unreality, could well be described as surreal or hallucinatory. Harking from the West Coast, his landscapes draw from the Hudson River School in the use of light and minute description of details, providing a Romantic metaphor of contemporary life. Many of his works suggest apocalyptic visions where human life blends in with the sublime countryside. The overwhelming presence of nature in the artist’s work can be traced to his close contact with it throughout his childhood, when his father worked for the US Forest Service, as he indeed reveals in the painting My dad used to fight fires and tranquilize bears for the Forest Service. Most of his works are painted from a bird’s-eye perspective, inviting the viewer to plunge into the finer details. His meticulous oil technique is evocative of the Barbizon school’s precision brushwork, or even the 15th Century Flemish tradition.

There is, however, a human presence in these spaces, whether they be real or imaginary. Dan Attoe peoples them with wanderers, not only to provide a narrative, but also driven by a conceptual desire to explore human beings’ individual identity. Influenced by American pop culture, the mass media and the music of artists such as Neil Young, Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen, the artist explores his characters’ identity, placing them in scenarios where they can play out their cultural traits: anything from walking in the woods to drinking a beer at the bar to attending a rock concert. Thus, his landscapes provide the setting for an exploration of some of the tensions and anxieties that underlie contemporary US culture.

Indeed, Dan Attoe’s paintings capture many forms of social behaviour that would appear to be far removed from the art world. His strategy might remind us of Richard Prince’s humorous work, which highlights clichés in American culture that he fully acknowledges as being a part of his own background.

Attoe also allows aspects of his own identity to spill over into his work. His paintings are peppered with tiny texts that capture the author’s attitudes; richly ironic statements that reveal the artist to be an attentive observer of his surroundings. The thoughts he shares include phrases such as “Everything is more complicated than you think it is”, “You are full of magic”, “Always wait for me”, or “Trying to control everything”. In line with his use of visual icons closely connected to a certain cultural context (beer cans, strippers, mountain roads, heavy metal bands), Attoe’s scenes play with musical references such as Nirvana, Metallica, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Tom Waits For many years (from 1997 to 2004), the artist charged himself with the task of painting a small piece every day, thus establishing a routine that gradually built up a personal diary. To add to this effect, on the back of each panel he would write a poem or brief note on recent events in his life or stories from the media.

Dan Attoe, biography Dan Attoe (Bremerton, Washington, 1975) lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Studied Art at the Universities of Iowa and Wisconsin. His major solo exhibitions in the US and Europe include You Have More Freedom than you’re Using at Peres Projects, Berlin (2006) or You Get What You Deserve at Vilma Gold, London (2005), as well as group shows, on occasion of the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, Portland Art Museum, Portland (2007); There’s No Fooling You (The Classics), at Peres Projects, Los Angeles; the 8th Northwest Biennial, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington; The Zine UnBound: Kults, Werewolves and Sarcastic Hippies, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California (2005); Growing Up Absurd, Hebert Read Gallery, Kent, UK (2005) or Fictional Wonders / Real Hallucinations, Sioux City Art Center, Iowa (2004). His work is held in leading public and private collections. He is currently preparing a solo exhibition at Peres Project Berlin and is included in “Shape of Things To Come: New Sculpture” at the Saatchi Gallery, London. Laboratorio 987, MUSAC’s project space Laboratorio 987, MUSAC’s project space, is an annexed venue that develops its own independent programme. The first artist to show in here was Silvia Prada (Ponferrada, 1969), with her site-specific project Hot or Not, between April and May 2005. Next came a video project by Fikret Atay (Batman, Turkey, 1976) under the title Sonidos Lejanos / Distant Sounds. In September and October 2005 Abigail Lazkoz (Bilbao, 1972) developed her project Esconde la mano (Hide your hand). Ryan McGinley (New Jersey, USA, 1978), held a photo exhibition Between us / Entre nosotros, in November and December 2005 while Wilfredo Prieto (Santi Spíritus, Cuba, 1977) projected his installation Mucho ruido y pocas nueces II (Much ado about Nothing II) between December 2005 and March 2006. Monika Sosnoswka (Ryki, Poland, 1972) took over in March 2006 with her installation Untitled. Philipp Fröhlich (Schweinfurt, Germany, 1975) authored a painting exhibition Exvoto. Where is Nikki Black? from September to November 2006. Pauline Fondevila (Le Havre, France, 1972) showed her installation November Song between November 2006 and January 2007. Clare E. Rojas (Ohio, USA, 1976) exhibited Sympathetic Magic from January to March 2007. Later, Marc Vives (Barcelona, 1978) + David Bestué (Barcelona, 1980) carried out their Imágenes del Fin del Mundo (Images from the End of the World) from March to May 2007. In May 2007 Joao Maria Gusmao (Lisbon, 1979) + Pedro Paiva (Lisbon, 1977) carried out a site-specific project. In July 2007, Matías Duville (Buenos Aires, 1974) set up his picture installation Cover, which remained on show until September 2007. Ivan Grubanov (Serbia, 1976) and Ángel de la Rubia (Oviedo, 1979) opened the new season in March 2008 with Después de todo / Afterall.

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Dan Attoe
American Dreams

Kurator: Tania Pardo

Ort: Laboratorio 987, MUSAC