Anton van Dalen’s training as a graphic artist is immediately apparent in his vivid prints and paintings, as well as his link to the East Village art scene in the 1980s, where graffiti, activist posters and wheat-pasted fliers ruled. The 47 pieces in “Doves: Where They Live and Work” surveys the oeuvre of the artist, who was born in the Netherlands in 1938 and moved to New York in 1966.
Van Dalen’s style is mechanically surrealistic, recalling early-20th-century artists like Giorgio de Chirico and Francis Picabia, as well as ’80s peers like Keith Haring and Mark Kostabi. Like these artists, his aesthetic world is simultaneously seductive and menacing. “The Horror Show of Science” (1981), a stark mural-size canvas, uses diagram-like images to show what science and technology have wrought, such as the atomic bomb and animal testing. Other paintings and drawings on lined notebook paper feature fighter planes, tanks (“war toys”), the effects of real estate development, the terror and isolation of the pandemic and how corporate giants like Coke, Amazon and Facebook have infiltrated our lives.
Birds also appear frequently here, serving, as the gallery release states, as emblems of “migration, freedom, peace, and community.” Since 1971, van Dalen has also raised white pigeons that lived on the roof of his East Village building. It is a remarkable detail: The world is affected by upheavals and migrations, but van Dalen, his work and his activist approach have remained local, stable and consistent. MARTHA SCHWENDENER