Hiding in Plain Sight

Aria Dean

b. 1993, Los Angeles, California
Lives and works in New York

This wall-mounted disc is composed of a mixture of red clay and resin. Like much of Dean’s work, it echoes the formal language of Minimalism to explore how objects and materials are receptacles for both real and projected meaning. In the artist’s words:

"I’m interested in finding some third term beyond ‘abstraction’ and ‘representation.’ When dealing with Blackness, these categories blur even if you don’t want them to—as do ‘material’ and ‘symbolism.’ I believe a minimalist framework allows the artist to condense a lot into a single object… Representational strategies lend so much specificity, there’s no room for how these things interlock more ambiently. But Minimalism allows me to speak to complex histories without having to enumerate and fix every element.”

Aria Dean, Forward Proxy 2.1, 2019, clay, resin and wood, 45" × 45" × 3" (114.3 cm × 114.3 cm × 7.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist; Greene Naftali, New York; and Château Shatto, Los Angeles / Paul Salveson

In Forward Proxy 2.1 (2019), Dean uses natural and industrial materials to create a monolithic, geometric form. The red clay comes from Mississippi, extracted from the earth just two hours away from the birthplace of Dean’s grandfather. While the work stands as a proxy for the American South, the artist’s family history, and the conditions of interpretation, the opacity of the disc complicates this connection, opening itself to the projected narratives of others. Dean’s meta-awareness of the materials disrupts how the piece might be seen by others—who are both aware and unaware of the material significance. In muddying this latent meaning, Dean’s sculpture challenges assumptions about artworks by Black artists and how their pieces might relate to their personal or lived experiences.

Aria Dean

Aria Dean (b. 1993, Los Angeles, California) lives and works in Los Angeles and New York and earned a BA in 2015 from Oberlin College, Ohio. Dean is the recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2013–15) and has participated in residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (2015) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018). Important solo and two-artist exhibitions of her work include White Ppl Think I’m Radical at Arcadia Missa, London (2017); Aria Dean at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2018); (meta)models or how i got my groove back at Chapter NY, New York (2019); and Suite! at REDCAT, Los Angeles (2021), which will travel to the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2022). Dean was recently featured in the Hammer Museum’s biennial Made in L.A. 2020: a version (2021) and has been included in group exhibitions at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (2017); Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2018); Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2019); Tai Kwun, Hong Kong (2019); and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2020). Aris Dean: Suite! Is currently on view at Redcat through October 24, 2021. Dean’s work resides in prominent public collections, including the Booth Collection, University of Chicago, Illinois; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Paris and San Francisco; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.