Art Young Artists 2017

Aria Dean: Young Artists 2017

Aria Dean doesn’t subscribe to a model of art-making where one must be literal, instead she revels in wedging herself deeper into discomfort—the space where one expectation misses another. By taking on the risk of being misinterpreted, Dean’s work is able to address complexity on its own terms and engage with the paradoxes on which beliefs around identity are built. “I became interested in toying with the gap between what I think is happening and what the audience thinks is happening,” Dean says. “That is what, in part, those pieces for American Medium are about.”

Dean is referring to a series of paintings she showed this past fall at the New York gallery. Made from quilted batting stretched across bars, the all-white works are a kind of material pun embedded in cliché of the blank canvas and a line from Marx: “Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry.”

Aria Dean
Installation view of Aria Dean's "Baby is a Cool Machine" at American Medium. Courtesy of the artist.

“I’m no painter and I like this idea of appropriating a medium that everyone takes so seriously,” she says. “I’m interested in my amateur relationship to different techniques, production processes, and technologies, and how I can manage my anxiety by exploiting my discomfort with the material instead.”

In addition to a traditional studio practice, Dean writes prolifically and works as a curator at Rhizome. Occupying three titles—critic, artist and curator—only adds complication to the way Dean’s work is received by others. “It scares me to make an obvious gesture because, while I do want to toy with an object’s obviousness, there is always the risk that people will think it is genuine,” Dean says. “There is not a lot of space for irony in the zeitgeist, but I think it's an important tool. For me, there is very little fun in treating art like a grade school thesis, ‘Here is my hypothesis, my evidence and my conclusion.’”