Monument: Kent Dorn

Clint Roenisch is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new paintings by the American artist Kent Dorn (b. 1979). This is the artist’s second exhibition with the gallery following his successful Canadian debut in 2006.

There is a rather elegiac elegance to the eight paintings that comprise Monument. In naming the show thus Dorn has said that he is interested in “things built in the name of death and remembrance.” His imagery is therefore shot through with a sense of mortality, transience and decline, all of it made more explicit by its means of execution. Unlike many painters who work thickly Dorn has studiously avoided the expressionist mark-making that propels this impulse. Instead he works slowly over a period of four to six weeks – for each small, easel-sized painting – constructing his images using dried-up and cast-off clumps of oil paint, laying them against and over each other on the surface, tentatively arranging and rearranging each as the image begins to take shape. These clumps are then stuck in place with coloured pins. Besides forming a distinct visual field of their own the pins puncture the skin of the canvas and bring a sense of precariousness to the whole endevour. The built-up areas, some as much as two inches thick, seem to make the canvas sag under the weight of such heightened materiality.

And then there are the images. Model shows a preening bodybuilder much in the manner of Richard Hamilton’s famous collage. In both the male appears to be at the peak of physical form but the muscles and flesh of Dorn’s figure look ravaged and tenuous. His facial expression too is more informed by Francis Bacon than Hamilton’s confident, all-American specimen. Garden meanwhile shows a suburban yard and the side of a neighbour’s house, normally a scene of domestic serenity and order. But here a window appears to have been boarded up and tagged by graffiti while the garden itself is rendered in a squeamish, gone-off palette. With Sundown a set of bunk beds support two prostrate, corpse-like figures rendered in black, clumpy paint. Their quilts, each modeled in turgid, inch thick oil, convey the feeling of being subsumed more than one of enveloping comfort. Adding to the funereal atmosphere are the drawn blinds and a generic reproduction of a sunset tacked to the wall. Lover’s Leap shows the abyss of the fabled star-crossed couple, here seen as a torn image of porn stars on a billboard on the edge of a waterfall. Here the ill-fated, the suicidal, the not-to-be are compelled to throw themselves over. A tattered phrase beside the couple urges them not to lose hope. “God Listens…” it says. “…TO SLAYER!” the graffiti adds mockingly. In the second gallery is Attic with its forlorn, unmade bed and memento mori; Monument which shows an abused-looking rock and more graffiti; Nightstand with dead and moldy-looking flowers, a ticking metronome and Sartre’s “Nausea.” The last painting is Camus who is portrayed only by his tombstone and some turned-over soil.

Kent Dorn has an M.F.A from the University of Houston (2005). One of his mentors through the program was the acclaimed Canadian artist Christian Eckart, whom the gallery also represents. Both live and work in Houston.

Related press: The Globe and Mail – Kent Dorn,