Plain and Sane

Dan Herschlein

In Residence: Sep 20 – Nov 22, 2021

Exhibition: Nov 18, 2021 – Jan 9, 2022

Dan Herschlein’s exhibition, Plain and Sane, contemplates the tension between light and dark as a means of examining ideologies. Indications of scarcity and accumulation peek out to the viewer, but the artist leaves the scene largely ambiguous.

Herschlein’s practice involves hand building, sculpting, and drawing, using common materials such as cedar planks, foam insulation boards, plaster, milk paint, pencil, and ink. Almost life-sized yet altered, their sculptural installation fills the Artpace gallery with anxiety or excitement.

The centrally located house-like structure has one side cast in darkness and the other cast in light created by car headlights as if a vehicle is approaching or leaving the house. The contrasting sides of the house are a continuation of the artist’s exploration of how dark and light are represented in art and ideologically. In other words, darkness is often used to depict bad scenarios, while light is associated with something positive. As you walk through the thin house, two figures stand inside a pantry, passing sacks to each other. Are the figures hoarding, or are they preparing for some inevitability? Are they looking out for themselves exclusively, or are they helping others? Herschlein told Artpace, “I’m trying to show a few of the rotten aspects, like having these pantries and finger flies. You have a stockpile that may be rotting from the inside, and maybe that rottenness is your intention. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with having what you need.

As you approach or retreat from the house-like structure, you meet details such as finger flies on the windows that speak to a past presence or objects in the yard. This new work is the first time the artist has created a pass-through interactive artwork. “I want the scenario not to be a didactic one. I want it to be a descriptive and let the viewer bring whatever that makes them feel to it… It’s a situation that either has some excitement or some anxiety tied to it.”

Finally, a resting point to the tension might be found in Herschlein’s drawings, which illustrate the human relationships with our architectural world and the greater system of capitalism. The title is inspired by the Ted Lucas song, “Plain And Sane And Simple Melody,” which the artist also contemplated during the creation of the exhibition. “I think that he [Ted Lucas] is a romantic…but I like thinking about that song about being about ideology in general.” More specifically, Herschlein is reminded about how nation broadcasts ideologies through narratives that people then enact. “There are moral values, prescriptive ideas, and you get to have a sense of identity based on how well you live up to these narratives.”

Download PDF of Gallery Notes


Dan Herschlein

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Dan Herschlein (b. 1989, Bayville, NY) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Plot Hole at Matthew Brown Gallery, Los Angeles (2019), Night Pictures at JTT, New York (2019), The Architect at the New Museum, New York (2018), Safe as Houses at JTT, New York (2017), The Stillness of Eddies at 56 Henry, New York (2016), and Worm at AALA, Los Angeles (2016).  Group exhibitions include Magenta Plains (2019), Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (2018), Bureau (2018), Helena Anrather (2017), SIGNAL (2015) and Recess (2012) in New York. In 2019 his practice was the subject of an Art 21 New York Close Up. In 2018  he curated “Beside Myself” at JTT. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Interview Magazine, Kaleidoscope and BOMB among other publications. Herschlein received his BFA from New York University in 2010. 

See More


Natalie Bell

Natalie Bell is Curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, where she recently organized solo exhibitions of Leslie Thornton and Sreshta Rit Premnath (both 2021). She was previously Associate Curator at the New Museum, New York, where she organized over a dozen solo exhibitions, among them: Lubaina Himid (2019), Marguerite Humeau (2018), Kahlil Joseph (2017), Hiwa K (2018), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (2017), and Anri Sala (2016). Bell also co-curated several major group exhibitions, including “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” (2017), “The Keeper” (2016), and “Here and Elsewhere” (2014), as well as “The Same River Twice” (2019) and “The Warmth of Other Suns” (2019). She has edited or coedited more than a dozen exhibition publications and published widely. Prior to her work at the New Museum, Bell was assistant curator for “The Encyclopedic Palace,” the International Exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

See More