Greg Colson, American (1956 - )

Greg Colson

Greg Colson is an American artist best known for works that straddle the line between painting and sculpture while exploring our obsession with efficiency and order. Using scavenged materials, Colson allows the physicality of his makeshift constructions to intrude on the precise systems he paints or draws upon their surfaces - striking a balance between subject and context, image and support, order and chaos. In an early review of Colson’s 1988 “Accidental Non-Un-Intentionalism” exhibition at Angles Gallery, Brian Butler wrote in New Art Examiner, “The main feeling these works project is one of investigation, not completion. A visual/intellectual questioning – a search into the quality of meaning, object, and the environment – is the ultimate outcome.”

Colson's diagrams and maps speak to the detached, abstract quality of much human analysis, at the same time smuggling social critique into each work. Roberta Smith of The New York Times described Colson’s 1990 debut exhibition at Sperone Westwater Gallery: “In nearly all of Mr. Colson’s works, the combination of modesty and grandiosity, of mental exactness and physical imprecision adds up to an odd, sad beauty. Elliptical as they are, his pieces often seem to scrutinize the conflict between the active center and deserted margins of industrialized society.”

Among Colson’s body of work is a series of ‘Stick Maps’ of cities such as Cleveland, San Jose, and Baton Rouge. These sculptures are built of found lengths of assorted materials; ski poles, curtain rods, plastic pipe, wood molding – the structure becoming a metaphor for the manifold influences on a city. In another series of constructed ‘Pie Chart’ paintings (based on socio-cultural surveys), Colson mocks the deluge of analysis that is so much a part of our daily experience by playing up the material and iconographic elements to such a degree that any actual understanding is subverted. Colson’s 'Elliptical Models' paintings incorporate, at once, the ordinary and the profound – while suggesting preposterous hierarchies using the formal through-line of the circle. Sharon Mizota, in her Los Angeles Times review of Colson’s 2010 exhibition at William Griffin Gallery (now Kayne Griffin Corcoran), characterized these works as “grand and hilarious testaments to the leveling effect of data overload. "One [piece] includes concentric circles depicting ‘5 Steps to Happiness,’ ‘Flea Life Cycle,’ ‘The Cycle of Addiction,’ and for good measure, a flange gasket. The piece levels the distinctions between these wide-ranging phenomena in an absurdly uninformative information graphic.” More recently, Colson has designed and created large-scale outdoor sculptures.

Colson was born in Seattle, Washington (1956) and grew up in Bakersfield, California and in the nearby suburb of Oildale with his parents and two brothers Jeff and Doug (Jeff is also an artist). His father Lewis Colson was a social worker but was also a skilled mechanic and inventive with makeshift repairs and adapting materials to new uses – which inspired his son’s appreciation of the ordinary and the rejected. The severe industrial environment of the Bakersfield/Oildale area, and its accompanying attitudes and outlook, also affected Colson – particularly in its contrast to the large urban/cultural centers he would later inhabit as an artist.

He received his BA from California State University Bakersfield where he studied with George Ketterl, Ted Kerzie, Michael Heively, and visiting artists John McCracken, Joe Goode, Ed Ruscha, James Turrell, and Ed Moses. From 1978-80 he attended Claremont Graduate School, studying with Tom Wudl, Michael Brewster, and Roland Reiss and earned his MFA. During the 1980s he apprenticed for artists Vija Celmins, Ruscha, and Wudl – which allowed him to move through the art world while making art. In 1987 he had his first solo exhibition with Angles Gallery. Colson currently works and lives in Venice, California with his wife, writer Dinah Kirgo.

Colson has had solo exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, including Sperone Westwater (New York), Patrick Painter Inc. (Los Angeles), Galerie Konrad Fischer (Düsseldorf), Gian Enzo Sperone (Rome), Galleria Cardi (Milan), Kunsthalle Lophem (Bruges, Belgium), Baldwin Gallery (Aspen), Krannert Art Museum (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and the Lannan Museum (Lake Worth, Florida). Colson’s work is in many public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), Panza Collection (Varese, Italy), Sammlung Rosenkranz (Berlin), and Moderna Museet (Stockholm).

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