A Thestory of Luneliness for Fuck Sake
“Veyo uilo, ve you’i lo ve,” stutters MMMMMMM to LLLL, who responds, in turn: “Youil’o vey ouil ove youi.” The screenplay, if you can call it that, is embedded in one of the sculptures, and consists solely of anagrams of the words “I love you,” strung out as a several-hundred-page unreadable drama with ineffable stage directions. The effect is heartbreaking. Characters stutter, trying and failing to speak. Michael Dean’s first exhibition with Andrew Kreps gallery plays at the edges of expressive possibility, expanding the capaciousness of language by lamenting its limits.
Arranged in a crescent shape down the diagonal of the gallery are 9 human-height selenic creatures, which wax and wane like a lunar life cycle. They have heads and tails and hearts, and all are weighed down by something—a Kryptonite bike chain, a piece of candy, a nonsensical screenplay. Made of concrete and rebar, they are wrinkled on one side like the imprint of pressed sheets. On the other side, they’re rough, coral-like, gouged out with fingers or a trowel. In Unfucking Titled Cope (2021), words like “BLESS,” “FUCK,” and “LOL” reel repeatedly across the strip of yellow caution tape binding it, a serpentine tail balancing an analphabetic dictionary of grunts. “hnnnhhh,” reads one entry, pronounced, apparently, “hnn-nn ‘h-hh, n.”
Embedded in each sculpture are smiley faces, hearts, marijana leaves, and other such symbols. Dean suggests, compellingly, that icons are just as much a part of modern vernacular as verbiage. The moon, historically a symbol of femininity and the unconscious, stands in as a signifier of the quick-fix desires of the astrology generation. In the smiley face sculptures downstairs, the typically anodyne symbol becomes frightening, dripping—it looms out of proportion. The word “bye” is stamped in cursive on marijuana leaves adorning a crushed Coca Cola can. In these works, Dean hits upon a ubiquitous and distinctly contemporary manner of communication, which either fails to express deep feelings of love, bitterness, desire, and ennui, or tries to offset them relapsing into trite or ironic aphorisms: “i love you—lol.” —Lisa Yin Zhang
Michael Dean, Unfucking Titled Free, 2021. Concrete and steel, 67 3/4 × 26 × 24 inches. Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York. Photo: Dan Bradica.