Our fifth solo presentation of works by Dean Byington features ten new paintings created during the past two years. Nature and culture collide in epic urban landscapes in which the artist contemplates the urgent environmental issues of our time.
Many of the paintings on view were inspired by images of the Bingham Canyon Mine, located in the Oquirrh Mountains, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. More commonly known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, it is the largest man-made excavation in the world and is said to be so vast that it can be clearly seen from outer space. Byington examines the consequences of such colossal interventions in the earth by creating densely configured scenes that reference real and imagined places through appropriated and invented imagery.
In the late 1990s, Byington began to combine his interests in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prints and illustrated books with photomechanical and digital processes. He developed a complex multilayered method (including drawing, painting, printing, and collaging) for producing oil paintings on highly-refined linen canvases that simultaneously recall Surrealist collage and the assemblage and psychedelic aesthetic of the 1950s and 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area where he continues to live and work.
His visions originally emerged from recollections of a childhood spent playing on the abandoned lots of TV and movie studios in Los Angeles and 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. The newest works continue to seamlessly join family and cultural history with socio-political observations in a plethora of images that are clearly articulated in black and white.
Expanding on tropes first seen here three years ago in Byington’s solo exhibition, The New City, he uses images of stage-like, raised platforms to focus on “the idea of manufactured landscapes.” In works such as Theory of Machines (Grand Saturn), 2017, and Colossus 1 and Colossus 2 (Elephant), both from 2018, he depicts elements of the Romantic landscapes of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church as theatrical flats or curtains, presenting their idealized beauty in a manner that is both ironic and tragic. Images of jet fighter engines are also a recurring motif for the artist who describes them as
examples of modern machines that use these mining materials for their construction, creating socio-political consequences through their use. They are simultaneously consumers and perpetuators of a system that creates a circular dynamic, similar to the earlier absorption of nearby communities by ever-expanding mining operations. The bar is continuously raised and the escalation of competing forces over the natural world is unending, impacting nearly every culture.Dean Byington was born in 1958 in Santa Monica, California and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. After studying physics and architecture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he completed a B.A. in Art in 1987 at the University of California, Berkeley, also receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree there in 1988. His first solo exhibition took place in 1994 at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. Since then, works by the artist have been exhibited in solo and group shows at museums and galleries throughout the United States and are in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and those of many other distinguished institutions and private individuals.
Works by Dean Byington can also be seen in Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, at the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia (November 15, 2019 – April 28, 2019) and Castles in the Sky: Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art, at the Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York (through January 26, 2019).
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is located on the 6th floor of 535 West 22nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.