Looking at this image online, as when viewing it from a distance in person, it is difficult to tell exactly what French artist Stephen Dean is doing in these enormous watercolors in his latest solo show in Chelsea. Non-representational color hovers over the center of black-and-white patterning, like an unfinished quilt. In fact, the artist created these works by dotting paint on individual squares of enormous crossword puzzles. Eight of these crosswords in different hues fill the gallery. What I find interesting is the optical play between near and far in the works.
Scroll down for increasing close-ups:
Both the most distant and most close views are visually pleasing but to totally different effect. From a distance, the works boast detailed, all-over abstract patterning that is so minute it is almost dizzying, and the colors appears soft and fuzzy due to the white space between dots. A close view reveals what might be a Conceptual exercise related to process or play. However, it’s hard to discern a system to Dean’s markmaking. Dean fails to capitalize on the cultural significance of the crossword or its irregular grid structure beyond a purely decorative sense. Even so, in the gallery, it’s an optical treat for the eye to venture from the detail, as in the above photo, to a view like the installation shot below.
The exhibition at Ameringer McEnery Yohe is up through February 6.