Dan Colen

Hat / Fortune Teller

September 6 – December 6, 2014

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Fortune Teller

Boom box, cassette tape with fortune recordings, table

4th Street SW and E Street SW Washington, D.C. 20024

Fortune Teller was comprised of a boom box tucked away in the underpass that plays a continuous loop of various fortune tellers reading artist Dan Colen their version of his fortune and predictions for his future, imbuing the dark, foreboding space with possibility and hope.  These cryptic and otherworldly messages imbued the underpass with a presence in the typically absent and transient area. Alone in the underpass, the recorded fortunes were disassociated from Colen and belong to anyone who hears them.  The piece evoked a sense of the potential for second chances, the chance for not only personal but political and national change as well. As a counterpart to the other underpass, directly linked by their physical proximity and the conduit transit of the connecting roads, the installation was an evocation of belief and loss, of ambition and failure, of life-giving hope and presence, and inevitable disappearance and dissolution.

Click below to hear an excerpt of Colen’s recording, in which one fortune teller probe the artist’s fortune, his relationships, and his psyche.


Hat, motor, cable, steel

4th Street SW and Virginia Avenue SW Washington, D.C. 20024

Hat was a kinetic sculpture of a fedora hat that appears to be blowing in the wind beneath the underpass, referencing a scene in the 1990 film Miller’s Crossing by Joel and Ethan Coen wherein a dead man’s hat blows away in the woods, conveying a sense of poetic despair and hope abandoned.

Similar to a chair or a pair of shoes, a hat quintessentially describes the imprint of the human body.  It is the form of the head, the mind, and also a hallmark of style and character.  As it is carried through a life it gets broken-in, bearing the marks of a life’s experiences.  Shown without a body, the hat is something lost, something that has slipped into the past, something that is no longer attached to life.  Like the smoke in Colen’s candle paintings, it is a sign of the extinguished.  To Colen, the hat embodies the artist’s perception that art itself is an invisible force.

The hat was carried by the wind every Wednesday at 12pm sharp.


Dan Colen (b. 1979; Leonia, NJ) is a New York-based artist whose work directly references city life and sub-cultural language. Colen’s sculptures, paintings, and installations employ various atypical media such as chewing gum, flowers, and lipstick in a deliberately repetitive manner.


These works were presented as part of Alter/Abolish/Address, an exhibition comprised of 5 site-specific commissioned projects throughout Washington, D.C. as part of 5×5:2014, a District-wide program of 25 contemporary, temporary public art projects dedicated to exploring new perspectives on the city through the lens of 5 curators, presented by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.