Michael Dean’s hermetic practice, which examines the relationship between language and object, is primarily sculptural and encourages physical contact with the viewer. The artist creates publications, photographic works, text and performance.
Dean’s recently opened exhibition Government, at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, explores the space where the personal and the anonymous meet. The gallery floor has been covered with a deep, wool carpet. At one edge, two door sized concrete panels lean across a passageway into a second gallery space. On closer inspection these are marked with fine, veined, organic textures resembling bark or stone. The same panels are marked by diagonal folds which are associated with the artist’s long standing interest in the written word and typography. At the entrance four arm-length panels suggesting door handles and necessitate physical human contact as the viewer passes into the gallery.
The titles of Dean’s works in this exhibition – government, education, health and home – refer to impersonal systems which become personal when they interact with their human subjects. The exhibition title – Government – more specifically alludes to political policy and communication within society. Dean views his works as subjective documents or proposals which must be interpreted and, in many cases, enacted to achieve their desired potential.
In September 2011 the artist staged Acts of Grass involving 50 actors and 50 Members of the public in Peter Zumthor’s Summer Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery. The actors were instructed to mimic the movements of their audience member counterpart, while reading aloud a text that included repeated references to nature and human limbs. Like his sculptural works which the artist invites us to touch, Dean examined the potential for multiple meanings at the moment of exchange between art work and viewer
Michael Dean was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and lives and works in London. His solo show Government continues at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, until 17 June. Other solo presentations include State of being apart in space, Kunstverein, Freiburg (2011), The Colour of Public, Kim? Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga (2011) and Symmetry of Intimacy, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (2010).
The artist created a special limited edition which was given to new Contemporary Art Society members during WORKS | PROJECTS Rotate exhibition at the Contemporary Art Society offices (5 October 2009 – 8 January 2010).
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Image: Michael Dean, installation view, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 2012. Image courtesy Herald St, London and Supportico Lopez, Berlin. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.