Stephen Dean’s work communicates with the public in a unique way, through interpersonal relationships and context of the place. In Rehearsal with Props, on display at Casa Triângulo, the French-American artist works with dichroic glasses that have the property of displaying more than one color under certain lighting conditions. “The concept of this show parts of the permanent connection of color in my work, which is close to music”. The particularity of his work is announced in this game of transparency, saturation and the displacement of bodies. It isn’t a static look, there are displacements in space and time.
The immediate identification of the visitor with Dean’s work is with the sculpture Ladder. It is a ladder without stationary base, with dichroic glass panels, material both reflective and translucent and one of the key points of his speech. By enhancing the interiority of the glass, it creates a sort of transparent membrane where the world projects and condenses in color, as a divider between the surface of the glass and the simulated depth of the mirror. At show opening, almost no one resisted photographing themselves in front of this enigmatic sculpture that seduces the visitor by reflecting it, creating a new work with each click, with reflexivity and cross-glances. Closely seen, one can see the density and saturation of the material, the color, the attempt to recontextualize common forms.
Dean is a multimedia artist who expresses himself both in sculpture and in installations and works on paper and video, in which color enters the process as a connector, agent for changing the spatial, formal relations. “I try to keep myself in the middle of a triangle, where an angle comes to the documentary and the others to painting and video art”. With these elements he problematizes the “canvas as support-transparency”.
Contrasting with the Ladder, the Atlas series seems more like cabinet work, a collection of small watercolors, which he calls “spontaneous work sketches” and which have the ability to expand color boundaries by mixing paintings on transparent paper from cigarette. “It’s a very tough material that supports light and is used by NASA”. With this kind of paper you can roll a joint and, with humor, Dean calls it “dichroic marijuana”. The little drawings are like preparatory sketches, very spontaneous, almost like gestures, motivated by landscapes, abstract elements, simple things that form a kaleidoscope that does not end. The painting with a saturated surface is populated with “flattened” images, grouped in sets of five pieces arranged on a showcase table. These small rectangles can be articulated in various ways, with different patterns and translate unique, ethereal moments.
Dean promotes the reinvention of preexisting forms or events in various materials, with glass as the pendulum element in his speeches from the very beginning of the art. This flexible material molds itself into oversized spaces such as facades, shop windows or windows, as it did now in a renowned store in a mall in São Paulo. Dean prioritizes the intrinsic qualities of material and fluid changes to arrive at the temporal transience of the observed world. Color is the most important element in his work, even before the language to understand ideas. His work speaks of the breaking of the univocal look and summons other retinas to translate daily systems and new sensory associations. These compromises with color and perception, the recontextualization of usual forms, become a way of encouraging new and challenging ways of seeing objects approaching other challenges.
The artist, of French mother and American father, has work both in collections of museums in the United States and France. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Whitney Museum of Art, N.Y; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; at the Fonds National D ‘Art Contemporain, Paris, France; at the Jumex Foundation, Mexico.