Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cleveland Dean: Burnt Cherry Blossoms

Cleveland Dean
"Burnt Cherry Blossoms" was a one-day event at The Walton in Chicago, comprising a CD launch for musician Windimoto, and an art exhibition by Cleveland Dean. I know Cleveland a little, but this is the first time I've seen his work in the flesh, so to speak. Actually, 'in the flesh' is an appropriate phrase for his paintings, which are dense with thick, juicy textures of poured paint and varnishes, blistered and burnt from repeated applications of a heat gun, layered with collage elements which in turn might be subjected to pyromaniacal distress. When you get up close to the surface of these paintings, you can smell the charring.

erasure, 2014, mixed media on panel
There were two bodies of work: the darker pigmented, 'burned' paintings, and brightly-toned paintings of poured paint, which has dried into swirls and waves of greens, reds, and yellows. Cleveland says that he often exhibits sets of contrasting work like this, as he thinks his creative personality isn't confined to just one mood or mode of expression. I respond most strongly to the darker paintings, but I see the validity of the choice in exhibiting work of a different character.

I particularly liked a piece called "of first and last." It has a continent of grey, white, and soft-pink material, the surface pitted and burned to reveal other layers of stuff, all floating in a highly varnished sea of black. I may be wrong about this, but it looks like the black area has been painted up to the edges of the central shape. This suggests to me that the creative process at work has a lot of unconscious and spontaneous expressivity, but combined at some point with a more deliberate searching for form.

of first and last, 2014, mixed media on panel
What is clear is that the paintings are one with the man: quiet and impressive, suggestive of roiling inner worlds, and emanating conviction.

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