The exhibition Tacita Dean opens at the Madison Art Center on March 7, 1999 and features film, video installation, audio work, and drawing by this London-based artist. Tacita Dean examines the narrative and formal structures of film, video, sound, and drawing. Her work has received recent attention with solo and group exhibitions primarily in Europe. In 1998, she was one of four nominees for England’s prestigious Turner Prize, an annual award that recognizes the country’s emerging talents.
This is the artist's first solo museum presentation in the United States. Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, the Madison Art Center is the only midwest venue for the exhibition. The Madison presentation will include four multi-media installation pieces and a suite of seven chalkboard drawings.
"In the work of Tacita Dean, there is a depth and breadth rare in art today," writes Patrick Murphy, curator of the exhibition and former director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. "Her investigations are a series of corollaries between truth and fiction, video and film, subject and media, drawing and idea, science and art. Her obsession is an ambitious attempt to reveal the connective essence between these seemingly polarized opposites."
In the beautiful and hypnotic short films Disappearance at Sea (Cinemascope) (1996) and Disappearance at Sea II (Voyage de Guérison) (1997), she underscores film's evocative power by focusing on the aesthetic of the filmed image. In these works, the camera, attached to a lighthouse beacon, pans the sea and the horizon. The films do not tell a story in a typical manner, rather the vistas suggest what the artist calls the "missing narratives" that inspired such meditations.
In contrast, her video and sound installation Foley Artist (1996) addresses the illusion of cinema and the fabrication of the sound effects which accompany screen images. Dean documents two veteran foley artists manually creating sounds for an unseen film. The ten-minute piece includes sequences of the artists jogging on wet paper to create the sound of footsteps in the rain and wrestling with a piece of cloth to approximate the sounds of dressing. Small speakers in the gallery play the eight tracks of sound which conjure images of the deconstructed movie. A dubbing cue sheet allows the viewer to identify each sound and find its place in the narrative.
A series of large-scale, chalk-on-blackboard drawings titled The Roaring Forties (1997) serve as an open ended story board for an unrealized film. While the series pushes the self-contained quality of drawing toward the action of time-based media, Dean's stage directions inscribed on the works prevent us from becoming immersed in the developing plot.
Dean’s work deconstructs and challenges expectations of the media she employs. As Dean stated in 1992, "I thought about alchemy, the turning of substances with invisible meaning into something physical and tangible."
Funding for the presentation of Tacita Dean at the Madison Art Center has been generously provided by a grant from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, with additional funding from the Madison Community Foundation; the Exhibition Initiative Fund; the Madison Art Center’s 1998-1999 Sustaining Benefactors; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.
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