Culture- ART FEATURE- Artistic alchemy: Dass and Witt mix it up
On the wall above the mezzanine at Les Yeux du Monde, a few lines from 19th century poet Friederich Hölderlin's melancholy "Remembrance" set the tone and reveal the origin of "dark light," the title of Dean Dass and Clay Witt's collaborative exhibition. What the show also calls to mind, however, is the witches' spell from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Double, double, toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble."
For there is conjuring going on in the gallery as Dass and Witt, individually and in tandem, combine intaglio prints with gouache, found images and unexpected scraps (e.g. hole-punched office paper, in the case of Dass), incorporating unusual materials like rust, lapis lazuli, and mica, to create abstract works pulsing with energy. Yet the visual spells each artist casts are distinct.
Dass fascinates with his ability to express the beauty of randomness. His shapes and placement of elements give the impression of being haphazard, yet his compositions culminate in an unlikely harmony and balance. Again and again, I found myself enrapt and wondering, "Why does this work?'
Tapping into viewers' "dark light" of nostalgia, Dass often plays with collages of Audubon-like bird images and transforms landscape photographs so they appear faded and all but washed-away. He subtly enhances the sense of lost time with evocative textures like creased plastic casing. In "Shield," he spreads pigment-flecked pieces of mica like confetti across a worn pillowcase, the iridescent ovals recalling small birds' eggs and fingernails.
Witt, on the other hand, takes a more structural approach. With a fondness for metals, he often builds his layered and textured images around a central shining vortex, twining with vines or enflamed, as botanical elements seem to emerge and recede beneath the works' diffuse surfaces. In "Gift Apocalypse: Hannah Cohoon," a raised silver whirl of Cohoon-inspired stylized flowers revolves around three concentric circles, while glimpses of green ferns swirl on the periphery.
Despite their divergent aesthetics, when Dass and Witt stir the cauldron together, the synergy generated by their complementary styles is exhilarating. It's tempting—and not terribly difficult—to decipher who's contributing what to the mix, but such analysis detracts from the overall impact of their collaborative works. In the large " The Conference of the Birds," the centered composition and lapis blue may be due to Witt's influence and the numerous birds may originate with Dass, but the work's strength derives from a magic conjured through the artists' combined effort.
"Dean Dass And Clay Witt: dark light" is on view at Les Yeux du Monde through January 20. 115 S. First St. (The Terraces). 973-5566.
COURTESY OF LES YEUX DU MONDE