I am an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and musician who plays with symbols, signals, and signifiers to explore how humans communicate and create meaning.

I have had numerous solo exhibitions in the Bay Area, at The LAB, NIAD Art Center, The Compound Gallery, Boontling, and participated in group shows in Brooklyn, NY, Oakland and San Francisco. I’ve toured as a drummer in the U.S. and Europe. My most well-known work is the conceptual coffee table book “All Known Metal Bands,” which was published by McSweeney’s, won an AIGA design award, and was written up in Rolling Stone magazine. My work has been reviewed in the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, and East Bay Express.

My collaborative project Imperial Services was launched during a two-month residency in late 2019 at ProArts Gallery & Commons in Oakland.

email: thedannelson[ ]protonmail[ ]com


Dan Nelson is a multi-disciplinary artist who plays with language and signifiers to look at how humans create meaning and social structures.

As most people do, he lives in cultural, political, linguistic, and economic systems that he didn’t invent but which he can influence. In his art practice, he tries to exercise freedom and realize potential—while fostering human connection—by using, subverting, and reinventing the language and signs that are the extensions of those systems. His work often uses humor and the absurd to short-circuit rationality so that forms and ideas can be experienced and felt anew.

A good example of his diverse practice is “The Corporation”. It explored corporate culture and aesthetics in a wide-ranging exhibition with over 120 works of video, photography, sound art, propaganda posters, sculptures, interactive pieces, t-shirts, and paintings. A 64-page book includes photographs taken by the artist in the offices and warehouses of his day job, haiku he wrote during meetings, digital collages, office humor, and more.


Download a PDF of this CV

Selected Projects, Publications, & Exhibitions


“Your Name Here” artist book [forthcoming in Jan.]
“Boron VII”, audio recording (as Boron), Polyfonal Records.


“The Lost Art of Teenage Boredom” artist book
“What I Did/Do, On the Clock, Now/Then/Forever in the Eternal Return of Work” artist book
“Oddballs” artist book
Untitled installation, 18 Albany Contemporary, Oakland, Calif. (solo)


Imperial Services residency, ProArts Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
“Hands & Pants”, [contributor] artist book of a collaborative project led by John Casey, curated and designed by Margaret Tedesco.
“The Teenage Notebooks of Morton Feldman”, in “Art Criticism & Other Short Stories”, [contributor] ed. Helen Reed, Blank Cheque Press.
Hands & Pants, Faultline, Oakland, Calif.
Put-Ons, NIAD Art Center, Richmond, Calif. (solo)
Daddy’s Books, The Drury Gallery at Marlboro College, Marlboro, Vt.


Future Perfect, Plexus Projects, Brooklyn, NY
Imagining Post-Capitalism, ProArts Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
Death Treat catalog [co-author], Death Treat Records.


“Your Name Here, Vol. 2”, a participatory web and print art project collecting invented band names.


The Corporation, The Compound Gallery, Emeryville, Calif. (solo)
The Corporation“, [author] artist book, Imperial Services Publications.
“Mirages” (as Boron and Argon), audio recording, Tymbal Tapes.
Turing’s Echo, ProArts Gallery, Oakland, Calif.


“Your Name Here, Vol. 1”, a participatory web and print art project collecting invented band names.


Custom Flotilla, lifestyle brand: t-shirts, posters, and stickers.


Hands and Pants VI, Faultline Art Space, Oakland, Calif.
Selections from the Collection of Dan Nelson and Lexa Walsh, Wall Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
The Pleasure Class, “Sensual Passport”, audio recording, Plink Plonk.


“Argon II” (as Argon), audio recording.
Hands and Pants V, MOCO Gallery, Oakland, Calif.


“The Teenage Notebooks of Morton Feldman”, in “Art Criticism & Other Short Stories”, ed. Helen Reed.
Hands and Pants IV, 63 Bluxome Street Gallery, SF, Calif.


Origins and Futures, public intervention, Portland, OR (solo)
“The Beige Album”, audio recording (as Boron), Field Hymns.


Tall Tales: Collaborative Projects, Swarm Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
“Aria Statica”, audio recording (as Boron), Field Hymns.


The Origin and Future of the Blood, Swee[t]art Drawing Gallery, Oakland, Calif. (solo)
“Decrresscenndo”, audio recording (as Boron), Field Hymns.


Make an Artist a Millionaire, an effort to raise one million dollars.


Regime Change, Swarm Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
From One Hand to One Mind to One Hand to Your Mind, Los Medanos College Art Gallery, Pittsburg, Calif.
object oriented, Compound Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
Heavy Hitters, Cricket Engine Gallery, Oakland, Calif.


Relay, The LAB, San Francisco, Calif.
140 Ways to Make a Cassette Unlistenable, The LAB, San Francisco, Calif. (solo)
Characteristics, Zza’s Enoteca, Oakland, Calif. (solo)
The LAB’s Annual Fixed Price Art Sale, The LAB, San Francisco, Calif.


24 Illustrations for Schubert’s “Winter Journey”, Cricket Engine, Oakland, Calif. (solo)
Glacial Flowers in Colloidal Suspension or The Impossibility of Progress or Day After Snow, Keys That Fit, Oakland, Calif. (solo)
ICON, Hive Gallery, Oakland, Calif.
Swee[t]art group show, Red Ink Studios, San Francisco, Calif.
Overhung 3: Well Hung, Boontling Gallery, Oakland, Calif.


Some Assembly Required, The LAB, San Francisco, Calif.
Photems (as part of “Transpose” with Steven Barich), 21 Grand, Oakland, Calif. (two-person show)
anonyme zeichner 3 [anonymous drawings 3], blütenweiss, raum für kunst, Berlin, Germany.
Transpose, 21 Grand, Oakland, Calif.
Overhung 2: Hungover, Boontling Gallery, Oakland, Calif.


“Oddballs” review, Newcity Art.
“Oddballs” review by Lori Waxman, 60 Word Minimum.
Word Magazine UK, “AKMB” interview/review.
GQ UK, “AKMB” review, Sept. 2009
East Bay Express, cover story about Make an Artist a Millionaire, June 3, 2009.
Chico News & Review, “AKMB” review, Jan. 15, 2009.
“All Known Metal Bands”, book, McSweeney’s.
SF Bay Guardian blog, Relay show review, Nov. 4, 2008.
SF Bay Guardian, Review of 140 Ways show at the LAB, Nov. 4, 2008.
Chicago Reader, “Obsessive Completism is Totally Metal,” Sept. 10, 2008.
“AKMB” picked as one of Amazon.com’s Best of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems, 2008.
Giant Robot, “AKMB” review, July, 2008.
SFBG, “AKMB” SF release party in weekly picks, July 30, 2008.
Oakbook magazine, interview about “AKMB”, July, 2008.
7×7 magazine, June, 2008.
Rolling Stone, “AKMB” makes #4 in the weekly Top Ten, May 29, 2008.
SF Chronicle, review of Echoes of Innocence, April 15, 2008.
San Francisco Chronicle, 96 Hours section, 24 Illustrations for Schubert’s “Winter Journey” interview and show preview, Aug. 30, 2007.
“All Known Metal Bands – R” [author], The Believer magazine, June/July 2007.

Grants & Awards


Safety Net Fund grant


“AKMB” one of the winners of the AIGA’s (American Institute of Graphic Art) 50 Books/50 Covers award.


“AKMB” picked as one of Amazon.com’s Best of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems.

“AKMB” picked by Amazon.com as one of Top 10 Editors’ Picks for Best Cover Design.


Morrison Library, University of California, Berkeley

AIGA Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University


2020: The Alternative Art School, studies with Mel Chin, Yael Bartana, and Nato Thompson.
BA liberal arts, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland.