Dean Dass ~Virginia

 
   
Johanna Drucker, "Art Theory Now: From Aesthetics to Aesthesis" a lecture given at the School of Visual Arts, New York, December 11, 2007: "Dean Dass, is heavily invested in the technical craft and materiality of traditional print production. A painter and printmaker, Dass also makes books as unique objects or in very limited editions. The pages of The Age of Partial Objects and For Girolamo Fracastoro, are thick with work, drawing and collage. The stained, distressed, palimpsest-like saturation of the sheets record the artist’s dialogue with his images and process in layer after layer. Finely made and rarified, often done as unique objects, his books are not so much about a shifted approach to knowledge and experience as they are embodiments and demonstrations of it. Inspired by the author of the 16th century text, Syphilis, For Girolamo Fracastoro has echoes of prophesy and chronicle, a record of violence to the world and a cry of protest against it. The damaged images that progress through Girolamo are a chronicle of natural disaster and collapse of species. They are mournful, elegiac more than hortatory, in their rhetoric. Sadness and loss are registered in the traces of shapes that were once forms, and in the flight of easy meaning from the central space of the page. Formal qualities are at the core of visual eloquence in this work, even as its thematic concerns with ecological disaster are evident."
   

The Age of Partial Objects
By Dean Dass
Charlottesville, Virginia: Dean Dass, 2006. Edition of 25.

8.75 x 10.25"; 172 pages. Methods: collage, pencil, gouache, pigments, inkjet, etching, xerox and xerox transfer, letterpress. Hardbound in paper collé over cotton. Letterpress title on front cover.

Dean Dass: "This book turns Melanie Klein's [Klein was an Austrian-born British psychoanalyst and a leading proponent of object relations theory] clinical term into a metaphor for an age consisting of fragments and fragmented knowledge. Rehabilitating the kunstkämmer concept with its notion of the complete set, as well as its hubristic categorization of everything, this book tries to both exuberantly display everything by category and demonstrate the melancholia of human existence as contingency, fracture and partial knowledge. A sense of the untimely and the sorrowful accompanies all attempts at classification."

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Anti-Oedipus (1983), p. 42: "We live today in the age of partial objects, bricks that have been shattered to bits and leftovers. We no longer believe in the myth of the existence of fragments that, like pieces of an antique statue, are merely waiting for the last one to be turned up, so that they may all be glued back together to create a unity that is precisely the same as the original unity. We no longer believe in a primordial unity that once existed... We believe only in totalities that are peripheral."

Johanna Drucker, Art Theory Now: From Aesthetics to Aesthesis: "The book [For Girolamo Fracastoro] is not only not didactic, its crucial move is to undo the authoritative assumptions on which didacticism is premised. This move aligns it with Dass’s 'arguments' in The Age of Partial Objects. In both works, the arguments literally appear, they are made materially. They are aesthetic expressions of visual phenomena whose ability to create associations and suggestions hovers on the edge of closure. The sustained ambiguity of Dass’s formal approach keeps the imagery from programmatic subordination to a didactic agenda. The work is not message-driven or dominated. This page, that page, with its hints and phantoms, vapors and atmospheres, shows the impossibility of getting hold of knowledge with any certitude. Acknowledging the failure of representation is an epistemological issue, as well as a culturally charged and historically specific one that features in current debates. But Dass is not giving up on images. ... Instead, Dass produces a visual experience of knowledge as partial, always fragmented and inadequate. The systematic certainties of visual representation put at the service of a rational, scientific knowledge slip away. Their objectification was premised on a notion of totality that isn’t sustainable. We are inside of what we know. And knowledge is experiential, not transcendent. The knowing is local and fragmented, though we aspire to piece together some map of what is going on, who we are, where we fit and how the fragments make something of which sense can be made."
$1500


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For Girolamo Fracastoro
By Dean Dass
Charlottesville, Virginia: Dean Dass, 2004. Two variants.

9.5 x 11.5"; 218 pages. Collage, pencil, gouache, pigments, inkjet, typing. Handsewn over raised cords. Bound in parchment. Gilt bird illustration stamped on front cover. Original bird illustrations by Jan Eckelberry in Audubon Bird Guides Eastern Land Birds by Richard Plough Doubleday 1946.

Dean Dass: "This book is an illustration of an epic curse. Early in the 16th c. Girolamo Fracastoro was commissioned by the King to write in celebration of the discovery of the New World. Fracastoro's resulting Syphilis (1530) however was more than a mere celebration or literal history of the events after 1492. It was even more than a speculation on the nature and consequences of a disease that still was past all understanding. Fracastoro's poem was also an allegory of the times with its themes of colonization and manifest right and destiny. This work also foreshadows contemporary issues such as HIV, species loss, and environmental degradation.

"In this poem, no sooner had Columbus's men arrived on a paradise-like New World, when, observing the vast array of living creatures, they began shooting at the huge flocks of birds overhead. Some of the birds retreated, flocking together in terror, into the dense grove and to the high rocks. From their highest point one (Marvelous to say) sang a dreadful prophecy and filled the men's ears with terrifying words, speaking like this:

"You who have done violence to the birds of the Sun, his sacred flying creatures, you men of Hesperia hear now what almighty Apollo prophesies, what he declares to you by our mouth. Although you do not know it, you have with favoring winds at last touched and gained the shores of the Ophyre you sought so long. But it will not be granted you to place in subjection new lands and a people that have enjoyed long liberty and peace, to construct cities and change rites and sacred customs, until, having suffered to the bitter end unspeakable trials by land and sea, and after battling against men on all sides, many of you bury dead bodies in a foreign land. Ships will be lost so that few of you will make for your homelands; others retraversing the mighty seas will search for comrades in vain. Nor will cyclopes be wanting in this hemisphere. Discord herself will drag your crews into mad and murderous disputes; and a day lies in wait for you, close at hand when, your bodies filthy with an unknown disease, you will in your wretchedness demand help of this forest until you repent of your crimes.

— David Quint, "Voices of Resistance: The Epic Curse and Camoe's Adamastor." In New World Encounters, Stephen Greenblatt editor, (University of California Press, 1993).

Monica McTighe, Art Department Tufts University, excerpt from "Essay on Dean Dass: Nature and Memory": "Choosing prophetic moments in history – the beginnings and endings of eras – Dass allegorizes them for the present. One example is his suite of prints For Girolamo Fracastoro, the 16th century writer commissioned by the Spanish crown to celebrate Columbus' expedition. The resulting book was titled Syphilis and in it, the author placed a curse for the conquerors in the mouths of the native birds who were escaping their guns. In these prints, fragile birds, illustrations from a science book, utter fiery and explosive curses against science and us. Of the two species, animals are the wiser. Dass frequently overturns the hierarchy between human and animal knowledge and mocks the traditional triumphant tone of historical and scientific narratives whose purpose has been to subdue the natural world and turn it into something useful."

Johanna Drucker, "Art Theory Now: From Aesthetics to Aesthesis": "Inspired by the author of the 16th century text, Syphilis, For Girolamo Fracastoro, has echoes of prophesy and chronicle, a record of violence to the world and a cry of protest against it. The damaged images that progress through Girolamo are a chronicle of natural disaster and collapse of species. They are mournful, elegiac more than hortatory, in their rhetoric. Sadness and loss are registered in the traces of shapes that were once forms, and in the flight of easy meaning from the central space of the page. Formal qualities are at the core of visual eloquence in this work, even as its thematic concerns with ecological disaster are evident. The crux of the book's success is its rhetoric. The book is not only not didactic, its crucial move is to undo the authoritative assumptions on which didacticism is premised."
$4000 (One copy available)


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The Phalanx Continues to Advance
Volume V

By Dean Dass
Charlottesville, Virginia: Dean Dass, 2004. One-of-a-Kind.

11.5 x 10"; 74 pages. Collage, pencil, gouache, pigments, inkjet, typing. Handsewn over raised cords. Bound in parchment.

Dean Dass: "This volume VII continues a project begun in 1991 during the first gulf war. (Little did I know what was to follow!) When American armored vehicles rolled through the desert near Babylon, I thought: we are not the first to do so. I thought of Alexander the Great and his dreams of a 'New World Order.' There began a series of books continuing to this day that explore the history of the Macedonian Period. A viewer going through the various manuscripts must negotiate a paratactic narrative as that earlier time period is conflated with present events. Among the overall impressions I wish to communicate is an unrelenting sense of history. Influenced by the Alexander Romances [collection of legends about the mythical exploits of Alexander the Great] as well as by the traditions of the Shah Namah manuscripts [the national epic of Greater Persia written by the poet Ferdowsi, which relates the mythical/historical past of Persia from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest in the 7th century], I continue to work, astonished and dismayed. I'm not interested in American Foreign Policy and how that has played out in various administrations; I'm interested in history as myth and dreams of All-Unity."
$4,000

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