The Dante Project · One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting · Pan Amicus · Significant Form · Monet Hates Me
“The great god Pan is dead,” reads a grey and white slate drawing of a semi-abstract sweep of cloud, light, and sky. Yet elsewhere in Tacita Dean’s exhibition we see evidence of the Greco-Roman god of the wild: the soft pink Pan (July), the celestial yet earthy Pan (Rhubarb), the spare Pan (Wind) (all works 2021). Throughout a number of series exhibited at Marian Goodman, Dean raises a pantheon of figures dead or lost, spanning centuries, continents, and the artistic imagination.
On view are a number of large-scale works commissioned by The Royal Opera House of London for The Dante Project, its three-act ballet inspired by the Divine Comedy trilogy. Dean’s exhibition builds an architectonic map of Dante’s imagined afterworld. First comes Inferno, a nearly 12-foot, 8-part photogravure produced in concert with an even larger blackboard that serves as backdrop for the ballet. Stenciled black dots stand in for the journeying figures of Dante and his guide, the Classical poet Virgil. Two walls are dedicated to the “Purgatory” series, floor-to-ceiling internegatives of large-leaved jacaranda trees found on Los Angeles streets, their violet blossoms transformed into a pale green. Paradise is represented by a suite of hand-printed silkscreens, which correspond to a 35-mm film shown in the ballet’s final act and are inspired by the palette of William Blake’s iconic 1824 hand-painted illustrations.
Dante’s world isn’t the only network of influence conjured in this exhibition. A pair of 16-mm films collectively titled One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting serves as a double portrait of Lucita Hurchado and Julie Mehretu, who share a birthday a half century apart. In an intimate conversation, Mehretu gently prods the older artist on the evolution of her work. The film Pan Amicus, commissioned by the Getty Center and including objects from the museum’s collection, alludes to the loss that comes before resurrection: a marble bust placed cheek-down on the lawn, blades of grass waving in the wind, a fly flitting over an unseeing eye. One floor below, Significant Form, a collection of found postcards, and Monet Hates Me, a series of foiled boxes bearing reproductions of items located at the Getty, similarly serve as homages to makers both named and anonymous. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Tacita Dean, The great god Pan is dead, 2021. Collage on vintage index card, Paper: 4 x 6 inches; Frame: 12 3/4 x 12 3/4 x 1 5/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery. Photo credit: Alex Yudzon. Copyright: Tacita Dean.