A sense of discovery and dislocation exists in Dean Byington’s newest landscape-based paintings. Composed of a dense profusion of original and appropriated images, they envelope the viewer in an enigmatic narrative that hovers between science fiction, mythology and autobiography. Titled after a poem by Mark Strand, Black Maps is our third one-person exhibition of works by the artist.
Architecture and a newly complex transformation of pictorial space appear within the characteristic horror vacui of Byington’s visual lexicon. Diagrammatic houses shelter urban landscapes within their rooftops. Cities are seen, containing multiple staircases, historical buildings, windmills, stone walls, towers and monuments. People turn handles and climb into mysterious machines. Step back and the view shifts to ancient landscapes with more buildings, waterfalls and craggy peaks.
Dean Byington’s paintings paradoxically recall minimalist painting, surrealist collage, and the assemblage and psychedelic aesthetic that began in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has lived and worked since the mid-1980s. Produced through a complex multi-layered process, using drawing, painting and screen printing, Byington’s visions emerge from recollections of a childhood spent playing on the abandoned lots of TV and movie studios in Los Angeles, memories of rock-collecting trips with his geologist mother, and stories of the underground tests conducted by his father while both of his parents worked in Los Alamos on The Manhattan Project. Seamlessly joining family and world history with cultural and psychological observations, this plethora of images may be clearly articulated in black and white, or barely visible, as though viewed through a monochrome fog.
Byington’s method evolved through an early interest in photographic reproduction technologies. After training himself to draw in the style of nineteenth-century wood engravings, he invented an elaborate process in which photocopies of his original and appropriated drawings are collaged to produce a series of silk screens, then used to print the underlying imagery in oil paint on to finely prepared linen. Byington completes each work by glazing, scraping, and over-painting to eliminate all traces of the printed matrix. His deep involvement with surface and production has been compared to the earlier generation of California-based “finish-fetish artists such as Ken Price and John McCracken.
Dean Byington was born in 1958 in Santa Monica, California, and grew up in the greater Los Angeles area. After studying physics and architecture at U.C. Santa Cruz, he completed his B.A. in Art in 1987 at the University of California at Berkeley, and received a Master of Fine Arts there in Painting in 1988. His first solo exhibition took place in 1994 at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. Works by Dean Byington are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many other distinguished institutions and private individuals.
Featuring thirteen small works on paper created between 1970 and 1976 that display the cerebral, sensual, and humorous aspects of Agnes Denes's singular aesthetics, the exhibition highlights her never-before exhibited Body Prints series.
Agnes Denes is internationally known for her innovative use of nontraditional materials in creating exquisitely rendered works on paper that link conceptual art to philosophy, science, mathematics, and other disciplines that she has explored in various mediums during her long and distinguished career.
In 1968 she refined the theoretical foundations of her practice, creating the pioneering Rice/Tree/Burial, recognized as the first land-art work with specific ecological concerns, and exploring similar issues in a series of diagrammatic works on paper entitled The Philosophical Drawings. In a subsequent series of drawings entitled Map Projections, the artist playfully re-imagines the globe, rendering it as The Egg, The Pyramid, The Doughnut, and other whimsical shapes, all accurate in their geographic measurements.
From 1970 to 1971 Denes created a small group of works by imprinting her own breasts, fingers and hands on various papers (including her signature colored graph papers). Nearly forgotten for almost thirty years, she was "amazed" to find them last spring "inside a folder that was inside another folder . . . I was delighted! I did these works to show another side of my thinking, one that was not taken up with science and philosophy, mathematics and logic."
The exhibition includes rare early examples from The Philosophical Drawings and Map Projections series. Among the works on view are The Human Argument Disrupted (1970) a series of four collages in which Denes renders her own symbolic logic illogical by cutting up a photographic reproduction of her seminal Philosophical Drawing, The Human Argument (1969–70), now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.
Agnes Denes was born in Hungary in 1931, raised in Sweden, and educated in the US. She has created monumental public works throughout the world and has exhibited internationally in hundreds of gallery and museum exhibitions, as well as important surveys such as documenta 6, the Venice Biennale (1978, 1980, 2001) and the Sydney Biennale (1976). Works by Agnes Denes are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and other important institutions worldwide.
The gallery is located on the 6th Floor at 535 West 22nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.