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Fragments of an Unknown Civilization by Damien Olsen

Damien Olsen
Fragments of Unknown Civilizations
October 17th, 2019 - November 9th, 2019
Opening: October 17 // 7-10 PM

Synesthesia is pleased to present Fragments of Unknown Civilizations; a solo exhibition showcasing 40 years of sculpture by New York-based artist Damien Olsen.

Recognizing life as artistic trial-and-error, Olsen views his career as a lifelong exploration of sculpture as an extension of his personal experience. Much like an autobiography, his sculptures and their environments communicate with one-another to form an intimate dialog.

The pieces on display are part of an extensive body-of-work that exists in its own realm--a personal realm, which is independent of a linear narrative or chronology.

Olsen imports that the works, in themselves, occupy parallel realities that he accesses through a process of “conscious dreaming”. Creation thus exists as both a ritual of taking dictation and acting upon the reception of a “call to action” from a higher source. The character of the artwork is evidenced by an overwhelming amount of detail and textures. One could say that his works reveal the environmental conditions that they were created in and subsequently reflect private moments of creation, back to the audience in an intimate way.

Discovering haunting and forgotten architectures, striving for nature to be reclaimed, the viewer might feel like a wandering spirit, exploring galleries like labyrinths. For Olsen, the endless puzzle, inter-connecting fragments, relics and artifacts, express the process of excavating unknown civilizations--of understanding any given individual or artist, as they document their experience.

“Every normal human being (and not merely the 'artist') has an inexhaustible store of buried images in his subconscious it is merely a matter of courage or liberating procedures... of voyages into the unconscious, to bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light.”-- (To quote Max Ernst, Olsen’s spiritual artistic mentor)

About the artist:
Damien Olsen, is an American, interdisciplinary artist, based in New York City. Born to a migratory Russian family, his family relocated to Brazil where he resided until the late 90’s. Olsen grew up experiencing many cultures and languages. Although he never formally studied art, he started selling drawings and paintings at a very young age and later on developed professionally as a sculptor and photographer.

In the mid-70’s, while studying psychology and contemporary dance, he earned a living operating as both a photography assistant and advertising designer. A few years into his college degree, he dropped his psychology studies to pursue a career in contemporary dance. His study of dance thus became his continued focus for the next 12 years.

Olsen took an interest in studying Zen and Taoism at a Zen Center run by Robert Aitken Roshi. There, he pursued the study of Capoeira, overseen by several academies in the Brazilian state of Bahia.

In the late 90’s, Olsen relocated to New York and continued on to engage in various visual arts and musical practices. During this time, he was supported by art dealers, Ivan Karp of Ok Harris Gallery and Cecilia de Torres, a specialist in Constructivist art.

From 2003 to 2006 Olsen studied music composition and Jazz improvisation, training with ECM Records guitarist and composer, Raoul Bjorkenheim.

With over 4 decades of devoted interdisciplinary activity under his belt, Damien Olsen has developed a vast and dynamic collection of paintings, artist books, found-objects, assemblages, photographs, and sculptures. His series of shelves or “cabinets of curiosities” are exemplary of the breadth of his work. Taking on the character of geological/anthropological displays, which exhibit no subtle likeness or mere symbolic allusion to themes in Architecture, Philosophy, Sexuality, Psychology, Paleontology, and Natural History.



Video works can be seen at:

YouTube Channel:

Earlier Event: September 6
Richard Sylvarnes WE CAME FROM THE STARS