Marc Dennis: Paradise Lost

January 30 - March 27, 2021

Cutting Darkness, Pasting Light: Bouquets of Selfhood in the Blooms of Marc Dennis

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Steve Jobs, from his Stanford University Commencement Speech, 2005.

Marc’s bewildering contagion of flowers is, of course, his contemporary take on those grandiloquent bouquets of kismet and conscience that tumbled out of Dutch Still Life painting in the Seventeenth Century. Artists like Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1683/4) and Jan van Huysum (1682-1749) painted immensely complicated floral compositions, bursting with a multitude of different flowers, that both celebrated life but also offered the foreboding warning of their – and thus our – inevitable death. Flowers fade; wealth wanes; life lapses.

Memento Mori (2018) clearly articulates this dichotomy between the buzz of life and the inertia of death. Lying down, a young woman’s cascade of brown hair fills Marc’s composition. Her arm, with a skull-like Rorschach pattern tattooed upon it, rests upon her meticulously executed hair. A moment of light in an avalanche of brooding brunette. Her porcelain hand, so classically posed, seems to hover between pose and repose. Another floral miasma invades the composition with an army of different flowers crossing the hair and abbreviated face of this supine woman. Their intense vitality, tight tessellation and exhaustive hyperreality fuels a chromatic explosion in contradistinction to the quiet ripples of darkness that whisper each strand of her hair and the horizon of inky blackness at the top of the composition that feels like the end of the world.

Matt Carey-Williams, 2021

To read the entire essay, please request a copy of the digital catalog.