Intersect Aspen Curatorial Selections: Marc Dennis

Intersect Aspen
Aug 10, 2020 1:56pm
Marc Dennis headshot for Intersect Aspen

Marc Dennis headshot for Intersect Aspen

Marc Dennis (b. 1972, Danvers, MA) is an American artist known for his hyper-realistic paintings that celebrate the subversive potential of beauty, identity and nature. Interested in transformative possibilities Dennis merges various movements throughout the western art historical canon, with modern tropes in order to create fresh paintings rich with hype and narrative where elements of the Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelites, Grimm's Fairy Tales and Disney intersect. Dennis was one of five sons and grew up in and around Boston, Puerto Rico, New York and New Jersey. His father was born and raised in Havana, Cuba in an orthodox Jewish family and his mother was born and raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts in a reformed liberal Jewish family. His upbringing plays an integral role in his art. His works have been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions in New York, Aspen, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Boston, London, and Seattle among others. His paintings are in numerous prominent private and public collections, including those of John and Amy Phelan, Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, Beth DeWoody, Bill and Maria Bell, Larry Gagosian, David and Jennifer Stockman, Carl and Donna Hessel, Larry and Marilyn Fields; and The JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, New York; The Neuberger Berman Collection, New York; The UBS Corporate Art Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; The Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin; The Springfield Museum of Art, Ohio, and The MIN Art Museum, Guadalajara, Mexico, among others. Marc received his B.F.A. from Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and his M.F.A. from The University of Texas at Austin. He lives and works in Brooklyn.
I enjoy the odd sense of intimacy in Yarrow’s photographs and this particular piece has all the sensibilities one would expect in his work, but with a direct visual punch, wherein a large wolf – with a ton of swag mind you, ignoring the barkeeps, trappers and traders, is focused entirely on the viewer as it walks towards us atop the bar…and it makes us pause and wonder, “Hey wait a minute, are we in the tavern?”
This piece reminds me of a kind of fairy-tale mirror; and I find myself looking for a reflection in the glowing medium wondering about its possible magical properties. The overall dimensions of the work give it the appearance of a metaphorical blanket fit for a human – perhaps to comfort the soul. It is a gloriously wondrous piece.
“Parvada” (the title of this work) in Spanish means “Flock” and knowing this (I speak Spanish) I immediately sensed the fluttering activity of the shapes and colors, much like the way flocks of birds might behave, and I pretended to hear the clashing and swishing sounds of hundreds of wings flapping and crisscrossing, and all of it filled me with joy and energy – with the potency of a strong cup of flavorful coffee.
There are apparent themes of death and the inevitable ravages of time in this artist’s work, and in this time of a pandemic it hits home for me, potentially encouraging us to ponder on the fragility of life and the beauty of the grotesque. At the same time, I also see this work as a catalyst in the search for the familiar like looking for identifiable imagery in cumulus clouds – a bridge between physical and imaginative realms.
What appears to be a rather simple and obvious painting of hanging laundry outside a building (with a presumed clay or stucco façade) is however a very moving and beautiful image. I try to imagine who the clothes belong to, what time of day it is, and why an artist would choose such subject matter and though I come away with lots of thoughts, what I mostly experience – and what is most important, is a sense of empathy and sensitivity for the natural beauty of the scene.
Kevin Bacon played a character named Fenwick in the movie “Diner” who often used the phrase “It's just for a smile,” when he was either in trouble or acting mischievously. This image of a penguin having its cigar lit by a human reminds me of what Fenwick would day if he painted it. The image is funny to me yet it is also disturbing but in a good way, though I’m not sure why. It is all at once silly yet confident, and a bit cocky though fragile. I enjoy this silly confident painting; it makes me smile. Sometimes we just need a good chuckle when looking at art.
This piece, simply titled, “Mickey Mouse” is a seamless artistic achievement of cross-cultural references. The pattern of the famous mouse juxtaposed with the hearts appears a bit pretty and delicate at first and though I’m fine with it being pretty it also harkens darker thoughts of sweatshops and grave markers. I realize when looking at art we are open to many interpretations and with images of pop culture we are often directed to think of them in a logically familiar way, but for me, in this case I imagine this image of the mouse was around before Mickey Mouse was even created – as if the pattern, for some magical reason was from a different era, of a hidden region of the world, a place Disney would have liked to visit but never did.
Owl
Benjamin DegenOwl, 2020. Susan Inglett Gallery
Have you ever been in the forest and heard the sound of an owl swooping overhead? I have. Several times. And I’ll never forget it. Owls are stealth and wicked hunters. They fly smoothly and swiftly but most importantly they fly in a practically silent manner. Yet their presence is known. Degen’s piece moves me; it captures a moment in time – of the owl’s flight through the trees. His drawing is silent yet one can hear the sound of the many brushstrokes – each tiny mark clawing its way into fruition – making its presence known.
Brown’s work over the years has often intrigued me with its comic book and folk art influences and his calculated narratives commenting on American culture. This piece from 1988, yes, 1988, is so very timely and could very well be viewed as if it were painted just last month! How is that not intriguing? The title in particular, “Third World City Council Alderman Remove Pictures At An Exhibition Which They Find Offensive,” navigates the waters of censorship, theater and politics, which is what we, as a country are dealing with in our current climate of socio-politics. The painting is well handled, the forms and colors simplified in order to lend focus on the narrative, which is emphasized with the incredible details of Aunt Jemimah’s bandana and Uncle Ben’s portrait peeking out from behind the aldermen. The painting harkens folk art, choreographed music videos from the 80’s and the theater of the absurd.
There is something voluminous about the minimal presentation in this piece – of what appears to be a cut section of a tree. The colors and marks are understated and delicate yet begs to be touched and seems to be speaking to us. I believe there is a subtlety to this piece that may or may not play the role of a grave marker. Maybe it could be a commentary on death or life or both. After all, how do we define the mystery of death without knowing the glory of life? González’s piece is a profound symbol that all at once is familiar and yet wonderfully strange in its simplified beauty.