Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Visit to the Studio of Connie Noyes

An artist’s studio, it has been said, is half science laboratory and half Aladdin’s cave.

I was reminded of this when I visited the studio of Chicago artist Connie Noyes recently, on the third floor of a grand brick factory building that once manufactured Ford Model Ts. As soon as the steel doors swung open, Noyes guided me on a pathway that led between old and new paintings concealed in bubble-wrap and leaning against walls, tables laden with the recycled and cast-off materials that she uses in her current work, and works in progress standing against other walls, reclining on other tables, or lying on the floor, amid pools of wet and dried resin that she pours in cascades over her materials.

We talked a lot about process. Whether in a series of works incorporating enlarged digital photos, pigment, resin, and hilariously gaudy frames, or in a piece that cocoons hundreds of peanut shells in a bright gold layer, Noyes spoke about finding her way by working with the materials. The size and…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…