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Goings on Around Town: Anton van Dalen

This Dutch-born artist has lived on the Lower East Side since 1966 and has trained white pigeons on his building’s roof for almost as long. The birds in van Dalen’s coop (which can be viewed via live stream on his Web site) also appear as abstracted silhouettes in his paintings and drawings, representing something far richer and more complex than anodyne symbols of peace. A selection of these works, spanning four decades, is on view in the spirited exhibition “Doves: Where They Live and Work.” A few large, dystopian scenes, from the early eighties, address Reagan-era urban neglect and Cold War militarization in a punchy, graphic noir style. In contrast, the birds depicted in a grid of gouaches from 1989 have a simplified, heraldic quality. The beak of one ends in a hammer; another appears as an airborne blue dirigible, with a bright-red chair for a passenger seat. A radiant autobiographical painting, from 2014, depicts the artist releasing his flock on the rooftop. Highlighting themes of migration and of neighborhood communities, the panoramic view suggests that the birds’ arcing path will soon merge with the traffic of Avenue A below.