About Don van Vliet

Don van Vliet Painting

Visual artist, poet, musician, and subject of legend, Don Van Vliet is perhaps best known for his incarnation as Captain Beefheart, seminal leader of the Magic Band from the mid-1960s until the early-1980s. However, he worked intensely as a painter even while gaining critical recognition for his musical genius, and exhibited his work internationally for over 25 years. In 1981/82, Van Vliet abandoned music for good, choosing instead to focus exclusively on his artistic endeavors.

Van Vliet began each composition with a thick impasto of white paint, establishing a kind of primordial pool in which his colorful biomorphic forms are suspended. These forms are frequently compared to totemic icons, cave paintings, or expressions of an unbridled unconscious; indeed, it is the pointed omission of any traces of the modern world which imbue the work with its universal and timeless qualities.

“A white-painted area serves as the background against which loose forms swirl and sometimes coalesce into recognizable, almost totemic figures: Abstract Expressionism reverting to the cave paintings at Lascaux. At other times, the forms resemble cryptic pictograms. All of this is done in delicious brushwork, the impasto of the figures competing for primacy with the impasto of the white area, creating a constant back-and-forth between perceived background and foreground and the actual white area and figures which are of equal thickness,” writes Reagan Upshaw in Art in America.

This playful uncertainty of figure and ground compositionally mirrors the myriad philosophical undertones and suggested implications of meaning. Van Vliet’s process is highly intuitive, immediate, and has its roots in the Surrealist practice of Automatism, wherein the conscious mind is relaxed and the artist’s hand acts solely as a vehicle for the unlimited possibilities of the subconscious, thereby releasing artistic creativity in its purest form. Yet, Van Vliet’s work is deeply infused in archetype. Incipient roots of form, myth, and perception come across with universal ardor.

“This work is devoted compositionally and conceptually to the fringes, propelled by discontinuity and absurdity. Van Vliet frequently omits a compositional fulcrum, yet arrives at rhythm and an unlikely comic coherence. The desert’s haunting expanse and impalpable imagery of mirage and myth pervade his paintings. Their glaring white spaces not only suggest this landscape, but leave openings for the viewer’s subjective intervention. This is terrain where the unconscious takes over,” comments gallerist David Kordansky.

On Friday, December 17, 2010, Don Van Vliet passed away in a hospital in Arcata, California, weeks short of his 70th birthday. He was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts, and one of the most original recording artists of his time. Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan commented on his death, praising him: "Wondrous, secret... and profound, he was a diviner of the highest order." Dweezil Zappa dedicated the song "Willie the Pimp" to Beefheart at the "Zappa Plays Zappa" show at the Beacon Theater in New York City on the day of his death, while Jeff Bridges exclaimed "Rest in peace, Captain Beefheart!" at the conclusion of the December 18 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Don Van Vliet has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions, including shows with the Bill Lowe Gallery in Atlanta and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Van Vliet showed his work internationally for over two decades, with exhibitions held in Germany, England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Don Van Vliet Art

1941-2010
Born 1941 in Glendale, California
Passed 2010 in Arcata, California

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2007 “Don Van Vliet,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY
-- “Don Van Vliet,” David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2002 Barbican Center, London, England

2001 “Paintings from the Eighties,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY; Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- “Don Van Vliet: Works on Paper,” Fleisher/Oilman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

2000 “Don Van Vliet,” The Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA

1999 The Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
-- “Don Van Vliet: New Works on Paper,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1998 “Don Van Vliet: Recent Paintings,” Knoedler & Company, New York, NY

1996 “Don Van Vliet: Arbieten der 70er und 80er,” Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany

1995 Galleri Aveny, Göteborg, Sweden
-- “Don Van Vliet,” Galleri Stefan Andersson, Umedalen/ Umea, Sweden
-- “Don Van Vliet,” Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Ohio
-- “God’s Empty Socks and Other Paintings,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1994 “Don Van Vliet: Stand Up To Be Discontinued,” Bielefelder Kunstverein, Museum Waldhof, Bielefeld, Germany
-- Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedenfabrik, Odense, Denmark
-- Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton, England

1993 “Don Van Vliet,” Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany

1991 Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark
-- Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1990 “Don Van Vliet: Ten Paintings,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- “Don Van Vliet: 1986/89,” Galerie Frank Hänel, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
-- “Don Van Vliet: New Paintings,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- “Don Van Vliet: New Paintings and Drawings,” Fred Hoffman Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1989 “Don Van Vliet: New Work,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

1988 “Don Van Vliet: Neun Bilder,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- Galerie Lelong, Zürich, Switzerland
-- “Don Van Vliet: New Work,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

1987 “Don Van Vliet: Zehn Bilder,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- Galerie Brinkmann, Amsterdam, Netherlands

1986 Waddington Galleries, London, England

1985 “Don Van Vliet,” Mary Boone Gallery, New York, NY
-- “Don Van Vliet: Sechs Bilder,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2007 “Selection,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany
-- “Don Van Vliet,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY; Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY

2006 “Black and White: Drawings for Summer,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY
-- “Music is a Better Noise,” P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY

2005 “Bilder aus den sechziger Jahren,” Galerie Michael Werner, Köln, Germany

2003 Box Set, Artists Ink, Rhino Entertainment

2002 Cynthia Broan Gallery, New York, NY

2001 “Rock and Art,” Cultureel Centrum Stedelijke Musea, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

2000 “Nature: Contemporary Art and the Natural World,” Contemporary Gallery, Marywood University, Scranton, PA

1999 Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1998 Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany
-- “Baselitz, Broodthaers, Byars, Immendorff, Leroy, Lüpertz, Penck, Van Vliet,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY; Knoedler Gallery, New York, NY
-- “Works on Paper,” Michael Werner Gallery, Mew York, NY

1996 Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.

1995 “Dancing girls, In honor of Gustav Mahler, Along the edge of Expressionism,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
-- “Major Works by Baselitz, Byars, Kirkeby, Lüpertz, Polke, and Van Vliet,” Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1994 Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1993 Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY

1990 “Bilder des Rocks,” Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark

1989 “Bilderstreit. Widerspruch, Einheit und Frakment in der Kunst seit

1960,” Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany -- “Accrochage,” Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany -- “Accrochage,” Galerie Frank Hänel, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

1988 “Accrochage,” Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany -- “A la surface de la Peinture: Les Annèes 80,” Centre d’Art Contemporain, Abbaye Saint André, France

1987 “Byars, Chamberlain, Salle, Fischl, Lasker, Van Vliet,” Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany

1985 “From Organism to Architecture,” New York Studio School, New York, NY
-- “The Chi Chi Show,” Massimo Audiello Gallery, New York, NY
-- “Factura,” Gallery Schlesinger-Boisanté, New York, NY

1982 “Performance Video,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
Amy, Michael. “Don Van Vliet,” Art in America (July 1999).

Auffermann, Verena. “Schwimmende Tiere der Kalifornier: Don Van Vliet in der Galerie Hänel.” Frankfurter Rundschau, January 13, 1990.

Beaugrand, Andreas, Karsten Ohrt, Jessica Rutherford, Paolo Bianchi, Luca Ferrari, Diedrich Diederichsen, Roberto Ohrt and A.R. Penck. Don Van Vliet: Stand Up to Be Discontinued. Ostfildern: Cantz, 1993.

Berkson, Bill. “Don Van Vliet, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.” ArtForum vol. 27 #8 (April 1989).

Bianchi, Paolo, and Robert Fleck. “Don Van Vliet: das Organlose Leben.” KUNSTFORUM #112 (Summer 1991).

Dickhoff, Wilfried. Text in Catalogue, Don Van Vliet: Neun Bilder. Köln: Michael Werner, 1988.

Falconer, Morgan. ArtForum, May 31, 2007.

Ferrari, Luca. Pearls before swine, Ice cream for crows: A tribute to the art of Captain Beefheart. Edited by Gigi Marinoni. Rome: Sonic Book, 1996.

Haden-Guest, Anthony. “Don Van Vliet: Boom times, bad times.” Financial Times, July 28, 2007.

Lane, Bohn R. Essay in Catalogue New Work: Don Van Vliet. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1988.

Leibmann, Lisa. “Don Van Vliet: Michael Werner Gallery.” ArtForum vol. 30 #4 (December 1991) O’Brien, Glenn.

“Don Van Vliet: Museum of Modern Art.” ArtForum vol. 21 #6 (February 1983).

Penck, A.R. Preface to Catalogue, Don Van Vliet Skeleton Breath, Scorpion Blush, translated by Catherine Schelbert. Bern: Verlag, Gachnang & Springer, 1987.

Penck, A.R. Text in Catalogue, Don Van Vliet: Zehn Bilder. Köln: Michael Werner, 1987.

Penck, A.R. Text in Catalogue, Don Van Vliet: Sechs Bilder. Köln: Michael Werner, 1985.

Timberman, Marcy. “Rising Above Chaos,” Art Week vol. 21 #28 (September 1990).

Upshaw, Reagan. “Don Van Vliet.” Art in America (July 1995).

Van Vliet, Don. Poem in Catalogue for "Don Van Viet: Arbeiten der 70er und 80er." Köln: Michael Werner, 1996.

Webb, Colin David. Garantiert ungewöhnlich...Das Leben des Captain Beefheart, Augsburg: Sonnentanz-Verlag, 1990. --,

“Don Van Vliet: New Work, in association with Michael Werner Gallery.” New York: Knoedler & Company, 1998.
 

© 2010 bill lowe gallery  |  site by visualiti