IN FOCUS       Erik den Breejen


Works on Paper

Erik den Breejen was born in Berkeley, California. He is a graduate of Cornell University, where he received his MFA in 2006. Recent exhibitions include Song of the Earth at Freight + Volume, New York, and Weekend at Mindy Solomon gallery, Miami. Den Breejen’s large-scale public works include murals commissioned by Atlantic Records, Public Art for Public Schools, and Rag and Bone. Erik is a 2018 MacDowell Fellow and a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Painting. His work is collected internationally and has been featured in The New York Times, Artnews, Hyperallergic, Artnet, Art Maze, Maake, Whitehot, and more. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

I’m attracted to using text in my paintings not only for its narrative and cultural meaning, but also its potential for abstraction — to use words as a means of exploring the language of painting itself. I tend to feature song lyrics, but have also used my own writing and quotes from other sources, including poetry, novels, film, and stand-up comedy. The letters are formed by painting a frame around them while the colors and shapes already in the background become their body. This play between positive and negative space has only increased with my foray into geometric abstraction and op art. I like to utilize scale shifts and alternate ways of reading, sometimes pushing legibility to the limit. While the words may become hard to read, reading the painting on a visual level becomes a deeper and richer experience.

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