Michael Dolen’s most recent work explores the theme of the circus: a site earmarked as being an imbricated network of activity, often involving rituals, risk, and sudden climaxes. Reflecting this carnivalesque energy, Dolen’s works use a variety of media; doing so, they capture the essence of the circus as a cross-section of chaotic forces. Figures are typically revealed only in mask, and only through the lens of a perspective that melds the wilding distortion of funhouse mirrors with the exacting rules of Cubist proportion.
In the mixed-media work Circus Figures 921V, the visual center of the painting depicts two jesters engaged in a seemingly impossible acrobatic maneuver. The detail with which the figures are rendered willfully contrasts with the jazzy abstraction that fills out the left- and right-side of the picture. Because each figure — the main attraction, so to speak — is rendered with such care, the visual noise at the picture’s margins takes on symbolic meaning. The abstract markings come to compose an audience, a throng of anonymous faces bedazzled by the spectacle of the two jesters performing an athletic feat.
Influenced by Modernism and Abstract Expressionism while studying art at The Cooper Union, Dolen has built on those traditions and taken them in a new direction. With over 30 years of experience as a graphic designer, he applies the clarity of that discipline to the sensuous forms and lush colors he employs, creating a unique, engaging body of work. The artist lives and works in New York City.