Art / Fashion

Dean Dempsey at BOSI Contemporary Has Got Some Balls

BOSI Contemporary held an opening reception on October 10th at 6 p.m. for New York artist Dean Dempsey’s first solo show in New York City. The show features a new body of work created predominantly while Dempsey was at a residency in Munich. Previously, Dempsey was featured at Bosi in the spring of 2012 along with Max Glaser in an exhibition titled “Mutatio.”

The “Mutatio” exhibition which ran March 8- April 15, 2012 and was curated by Renato Miracco explored the notions of art as past and present, as a continuation of the art historical aesthetic canon, as a product of the times and society. The exhibition explored an artist giving his own voice rather than being part of a so called “movement,” or trend, these artists drew on the inspiration of old masters in a new and creative as well as playful way. Their common denominator was, definitely, the absence of a specific human physiognomy. Playing on the kabuki theater Dempsey’s works can be divided into three main categories: shosagoto, or dance pieces; jidaimono, or history plays; and sewamono, or plays of the common people. The piece Swan drew on Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding and Berries drew on David’s Death of Marat. The similarities are undeniable and evident in the compositions. However, Dempsey’s pieces have things that make them unique. In Swan we can see the background which recalls a modern interior with the window and brick wall, and he has also exchanged the dog (symbol of fidelity) with a swan which is also a symbol of fidelity, unity, and love. Hinduism believes that swans are saintly persons who are meant to remain in this world without getting attached to it just like the swan’s feathers touch water but never get wet; however in Dempsey’s photograph the swan seems to be plucking out its feathers. Could this symbolize its refusal to not get attached to the world? We as humans often attach ourselves not only to other people but material possessions.

Dean Dempsey Swan, 2011

Dean Dempsey
Swan, 2011
48″ x 84″
Backlit suspension

Jan Van Eyck Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 Oil on Panel 82 × 59.5 cm (32.3 × 23.4 in) National Gallery, London

Jan Van Eyck
Arnolfini Portrait, 1434
Oil on Panel
82 × 59.5 cm (32.3 × 23.4 in)
National Gallery, London

In Dempsey’s Berries photograph, the letter that Marat holds in David’s painting is substituted with a mirror within which we see a camera, the one taking a picture. It is the physical manifestation of a picture within a picture. The camera is observing itself. The camera in today’s society is the symbol for communication; we can take pictures at any moment with our phones. We communicate through posting pictures on social media; I mean Instagram is solely based on pictorial documentation. Letters in the past documented and communicated thoughts just as photographs do today. The presence of the camera also adds another voyeuristic aspect to this photograph. The title berries, though seemingly unusual, could relate to the concept of fake blood, this being a staged history play. The play on history, especially that of art history is not a foreign concept amongst Dempsey’s predecessors, Cindy Sherman did a whole series of them titled “History Portraits, Old Masters.” Sherman explored the question of what image patterns the media employs for portraying femininity and how these images determine perceptions of women. At the same time, they deconstruct by humorous, ironic, and provocative means the traditional iconography of portraying women in the Western world and develop alternative images that postulate new forms of representation, which are at times aggressive and strident, at others subtle and devious. Other women such as Countess Castiglione and the Surrealist Claude Cahun discovered photography as a means of experiencing their ego in many different roles and exposing stereotype projections of femininity through masquerading. The variations on recognizable and identifiable images of the past presented by all these artists allow them to not only explore social themes but themes of gender.

Dean Dempsey Berries, 2011

Dean Dempsey
Berries, 2011
48″ x 84″
Backlit suspension

Jacques-Louis David Death of Marat, 1793 Oil on canvas 165 cm × 128 cm (65 in × 50 in) Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium

Jacques-Louis David
Death of Marat, 1793
Oil on canvas
165 cm × 128 cm (65 in × 50 in)
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium

Cindy Sherman Untitled #224, 1988 – 90, from the series History Portraits, Old Masters

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #224, 1988 – 90, from the series History Portraits, Old Masters

Caravaggio Young Sick Bacchus, 1593 Oil on canvas 67 x 53 cm The Borghese Gallery, Rome

Caravaggio
Young Sick Bacchus, 1593
Oil on canvas
67 x 53 cm
The Borghese Gallery, Rome

Cindy Sherman Untitled #216, 1988 – 90, from the series History Portraits, Old Masters

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #216, 1988 – 90, from the series History Portraits, Old Masters

Jean Fouquet Virgin and child Melun diptych, 1450 Tempera on panel  93 × 85 cm Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

Jean Fouquet
Virgin and child Melun diptych, 1450
Tempera on panel
93 × 85 cm
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

From then until now Dempsey has expanded his oeuvre to incorporate videos and paintings in addition to photography. Unlike previously, he has now eliminated himself as subject, he steps behind the camera lending a voyeuristic eye to his evocative images. These photographs, videos, and paintings celebrate voyeurism as a reality of life and as a theme in art history. The visitor is placed in the position of voyeur, looking at women who masquerade in unfamiliar, often odd and mysterious landscapes. Though the women are nude or exposed, their sexuality is almost undermined by the strangeness of the settings they are placed in. These pieces create a push and pull with the viewer. At once we are intrigued as voyeurs and brought in by sensual bodies and yet we are cautious given the oddity of the scene as well as the physical distance to the subject. These women create a desire and fear; they are alien yet intimate, close but distant, filling the works with contradictions and dualism. These dualities explore the shared subconscious of humanity. Physical duality is evident in Stroboscope Still I as the women become near mirror images of each other. His interest in androgyny which was more so evident in his “Mutatio” exhibition slyly resurfaces here as well, with a testicular theme to highlight the opposition between female and male, the ultimate oppositional force. This is visible in Dream Sequence Halftone, Landing, and a bit more subtly in Masks II.

Dean Dempsey Stroboscope Still I, 2013

Dean Dempsey
Stroboscope Still I, 2013

Dean Dempsey Landing, 2013

Dean Dempsey
Landing, 2013

Dean Dempsey Masks II, 2013

Dean Dempsey
Masks II, 2013

Hailing from the tradition of Marilyn Minter, Dream Sequence II Still II, originates from a short film projected on the wall next to Dream Sequence I. Both works show the transformation of women via face paint. This one however, using gold face paint and glitter, is reminiscent more so of royalty and beauty. It is less aggressive than its counterpart.

Dean Dempsey Dream Sequence II Still II, 2013

Dean Dempsey
Dream Sequence II Still II, 2013

Marilyn Minter Chewing Pink, 2009 C-Print

Marilyn Minter
Chewing Pink, 2009
C-Print

Marilyn Minter Pink Mist, 2006 C-Print

Marilyn Minter
Pink Mist, 2006
C-Print

One of my favorite photographs, Dream Sequence Halftone is reminiscent of Titian’s and Girogione’s nudes which expose a single breast. However, the photograph which originates from the short film projected on the gallery back wall is much more powerful than the dream like and ephemeral nudes of the 16th century. The film begins with the viewer looking at a bird cage within which are two fake parakeets. Then the film takes us to the model which originally wears white and then transforms to wearing black and red as well as applying red face paint. White is usually associated with purity, peace, and innocence, while red and black are bold colors often representing death, war, love, blood, and in some cultures black even represents living. Face painting is a common theme among many cultures from indigenous tribes in Africa to the Native American tribes of the Americas. The art of transforming ourselves with make-up and masks is a universal phenomenon. Before we sought to vent our artistic impulse on a cave wall, we painted on our faces and bodies. The people indigenous to the Amazon region believed that this power to change ourselves demonstrates our humanity and sets ourselves apart from the world of the animals. The shapes and colors convey a strong bond and meaning amongst people who have a face painting traditions. They are a connection to their past and carry a very strong cultural meaning in their lives. In ancient times, only primary and locally available colors like red, blue, yellow or white were used. Painting a face is an art, perhaps the very first art, going back to the origins of human culture. Colors in Native American culture have special significance. Red is a violent color; it is the color of war. Strangely enough black, which is considered to be an inauspicious color in most cultures, is the color of ‘living’, worn on the face during war preparations. White predictably is the color of peace. If we apply that information to the photograph and the short film, this woman prepares herself to be a warrior. Her pose is strong and defiant, having a spread gait with black balloons dangling between her legs. If we take the black color as a symbol for life, the black balloons which echo testicles could be a representation that life is found within (i.e. the sperm being the bearer of life). The exposed breasts call to the ancient notions of fertility as well as beauty. Dempsey filled the short film and photograph with more metaphors and oppositions than there is space for me to write about. It is a surprisingly clever and creative projection of what we understand as gender, as masculine/feminine, as beautiful.

Giorgione Portrait of a young bride, 1506 Oil on canvas transferred from panel 41 cm × 33.5 cm (16 in × 13.2 in) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Giorgione
Portrait of a young bride, 1506
Oil on canvas transferred from panel
41 cm × 33.5 cm (16 in × 13.2 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Titian Venus with a Mirror, 1555 Oil on canvas 124 cm × 104 cm (49 in × 41 in) National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Titian
Venus with a Mirror, 1555
Oil on canvas
124 cm × 104 cm (49 in × 41 in)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Titian Woman in a fur coat, 1536-38 Oil on canvas 95 cm (37.4 in) x 63 cm (24.8 in) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Titian
Woman in a fur coat, 1536-38
Oil on canvas
95 cm (37.4 in) x 63 cm (24.8 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Dean Dempsey
Dream Sequence Halftone, 2013

This exhibition is presented in collaboration with creem magazine. Creem magazine is an edgy and avant-garde magazine which features artistic fashion photography, often times bordering on the concepts of androgyny just like Dempsey. http://creemmag.com/

Ari Abramczyk Down Below

Ari Abramczyk
Down Below
Creem Magazine

DEAN DEMPSEY
Solo show
October 10 – November 7
Opening Reception, October 10, 6-8 p.m.

BOSI CONTEMPORARY
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 7pm and by appointment
Address: 48 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002
Phone +1 212 966 5686
Fax: +1 212 966 5686
Email: info@bosicontemporary.com
Website: http://www.bosicontemporary.com/

Advertisements

One thought on “Dean Dempsey at BOSI Contemporary Has Got Some Balls

  1. Pingback: My Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s