Hushed Neon : Dana James

3 February - 10 March 2024

Bode is pleased to present Hushed Neon,a solo exhibition of Dana James, where the artist explores embracing and resisting beauty, the duality of femininity, as well as the contradictions of human-made artifice inside a natural world.


James’s paintings, ultimately awash in luminosity, coalescence bright, airy pastel palettes with weathered, recycled canvas in order to achieve the desired level of contradiction and controversy. As a result, large fields of smooth color are offset by a flurry of mark making. These marks are akin to scars on otherwise flawless skin, diaphanous but permanent, heavy with history. Important to the artist's process is creating selective moments of shifting light in each piece. It can be a literal glow created by varied treatments and iridescent pigment, summoning the glinting of the ocean, the magic felt in the vastness of nature as a child, and the flashing of color just before drifting into sleep. One cannot but notice traces of iridescence flicker across the surface like a dragonfly’s moonlit wing, denoting transformation and direction within the painting’s moving composition. Besides, James incorporates straight lines and distinct contours within the amorphous pools of color that largely define each piece. This provides control and structure, while emphasizing the painting’s autonomy through bleeds and off-kilter strokes. 


The vocabulary of chosen materials is well-calculated. The artist uses bright hues and dark explosive pigments subsumed in layers of muted wax to convey the transience of existence, – the colors and images one may see while drifting into sleep or in a memory. Time vanishes in pieces that expand into multi-paneled constructions. There is no beginning or end to the composition, inviting the viewer into the folds to question the dissonance between the edges.  For James, the concept of time is compelling, as a mode of measurement or as a measure of existence; as a matter of quietude and stillness. Thus, the paintings turn into visual diaries that speak to contradiction, as moments of latency buzzing with intermittent activity. They serve as reminders that we are small and predictable creatures, constantly creating and shedding beautiful accounts of the earth and its elements.


There is a strong focus on materiality and roughness in the presented body of work. James uses a wide variety of multifarious materials, including paint, acrylic, raw pigment, encaustic, wax, marker, ink, pastel, and pencil, – all these  to create dynamism and movement. Hushed Neon is born out of the color palette, which is largely focused on neon shades cascading over dusky browns, purplish blacks and earth tones. The title of the show itself contains duality and contradiction, as well as the "action" it presents. In this body of work the artist is developing the idea of a "quiet" neon painting, figuring out how to reach that balance. At the same time the neon, that we frequently observe within human made electric signs, references the idea about a man-made artifice inside a natural world, that runs like a red thread through the entire exhibition. The golden and yellow elements of the paintings, similar to golden artifacts, creep out from the dirty surfaces the artist has created. Other images are obscured by blurry dark spots almost like from an old polaroid, and are in the action of blinking, which brings to mind the way memory distorts imagery. Much like an old movie reel, sections are cut and begin again and again.



Dana James (b. 1986, New York, NY, US) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in New York, US. Since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2008, her work has been exhibited extensively and can be found in private and public collections around the world, including UBS Art Collection and Gibson & Dunn. James is represented by Hollis Taggart Contemporary in New York, NY, US, and by Bode in Berlin, DE. Most recent solo exhibitions include Dana James: Pearls & Potions (2023, Hollis Taggart, New York, NY, US), Something I Meant to Say (2021, Hollis Taggart, New York, NY, US) and Otherwise All Was Silent (2020, Bode, Berlin, DE). The artist has participated at numerous two-person and group shows at Gruin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, US; PM/AM, Miami, FL, US; Gruin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, US; Moberg Gallery, Des Moines, IA, US; Marquee Projects, Bellport, LI, US, among others. James was featured as one of the "Top 20 Artists Shaping the New Decade" by Daily Collector in 2020. James’ artwork has also been reviewed in Artforum and New York Magazine, among others.