A master in the art of the delay, Daan van Golden achieved a certain level of success in the Pop decade of the 1960s only to retreat from public activities following the 1968 documenta, using the Dutch subsidy system to make a living rather than a career. Having recommenced exhibiting his art around 1980, Van Golden's renown remained largely confined to the Netherlands until recently, with exhibitions at the Camden Arts Center, Greene Naftali, and now a carefully curated retrospective at Wiels in Brussels. Van Golden's work thus seems poised to arrive in the present, in the present-day culture industry. I was invited to contribute an essay to the catalogue of the Wiels exhibition, and I decided to use this opportunity reflect on the complex role of Van Golden's practice in (and often against) developments in the cultural economy since the 1960s.
From the introduction: "Daan van Golden’s works are marked by precise attention to the properties of the mediums employed by the artist. This would seem to invite a formalist analysis, or rather a structuralist one—for van Golden’s early Pop abstractions, the “handkerchief” and “wrapping paper” paintings, already mock the limitations of formalism, playing off form-as-form against form as a codified, signifying structure. While such works thus make it abundantly clear that they should not be regarded as self-sufficient forms, I want to argue that, since the 1970s in particular, van Golden’s work also frustrates structuralist readings that disparage the social context as extraneous to the production of meaning. What I propose to do here is analyse van Golden’s practice in the context of changing economical and social conditions—globally, but also, and specifically, in the Netherlands. Of course, the aim is not to read art as a mere superstructural or ideological reflection of an economic and social base. If anything, the point should be that the economy’s increasing dependence on intellectual and cultural labour makes the problematic—or dialectic—relation between these two more complicated than ever. Van Golden’s works can be seen as constituting a series of interventions in the changing conditions of cultural production."
The retrospective at Wiels is on view until 29 April; the catalogue will be ready towards the end of the show's run. The image shows an installation view with a dialogue between two exercises in framing and ornithology: an untitled 1965 collage in the foreground and Birds (1986) in the background.
[A note on the name: In Dutch the full name is "Daan van Golden" with a lower-case v, but when only the the last name is used it is "Van Golden" with a capital V. Since this is rather confusing to the majority of the world's population, Wiels consistently uses "van Golden."]