By: Southwest Art, April 14, 2017
Los Angeles, CA
Maxwell Alexander Gallery, May 20-June 17
This story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine.
This month Maxwell Alexander Gallery presents Into the Night, a solo show for Glenn Dean featuring 10 new paintings that explore the light at the end of the day and into the moonlit hours. The show opens with an artist’s reception on Saturday, May 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. “People get used to the light effects in bright works,” says gallery director Beau Alexander, but the more subtle effects found in these works “make the paintings so much more interesting, not only for the artist but for the viewer as well.” While western artists Frederic Remington and Frank Tenney Johnson were well-known for their nocturnes, Alexander says not many artists have really focused on them since then, and Dean felt inspired to do so.
Although Dean has worked with nighttime and sunset scenes in the past, this show focuses on the times of day when light is most challenging to interpret. “I spent most of last summer going out during the last half hour of daylight and doing little color sketches very quickly, working until I couldn’t see anymore,” Dean says. He also spent a lot of time walking around in the moonlight and just observing.
Dean is known for his simplified landscapes that create an illusion of detail—a style he developed over 15 years of painting outdoors—and these works take those simplified forms even further. “This show is really an exploration of light and color, working within the transition from the fading light of day to the moonlit night,” he says. “I wanted to explore how the changes in light affect how we see our surroundings, and how the surroundings themselves visually merge together and into the night sky, nearly losing all definition, unless defined by the direct light of the moon.” Dean finds working within that tight range of values and colors intriguing but also really challenging. “You want to be truthful to moonlight, but you can’t really see,” he explains, “so you have to make artistic decisions to add more life, more vibration of color working within that low color key. You can very easily push it too far, and it doesn’t feel right, or you don’t go far enough, and it is too dull and boring.”
Most of the works in the show include cowboy figures coming and going in the landscape, figures that offer the idea of a narrative, but one Dean keeps purposely vague. “That story is more in the viewer,” he says. The riders, like his work overall, create the illusion of detail “without banging the viewer over the head with it.”
Alexander notes that nocturnes can be hard for viewers to understand, but “when you see them in person, you realize that nighttime has a special, unique glow, and the subtleties and variations in value appear in a whole new light.” Into the Night remains on view at Maxwell Alexander Gallery’s new location in downtown Los Angeles until June 17. —Laura Rintala
To view more work by Glenn Dean, click here.