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Symbolism!

Baldwin Gallery bows concurrent exhibitions, featuring the works of artists Sarah Charlesworth and Stephen Dean.

Stephen Dean, “Account,” 2003, 84 inches by 7 inches by 4 inches, books

Sarah Charlesworth, “Regarding Venus,” Fuji Crystal archive prints with lacquer frames, from the series Available Light, 41 inches by 63 inches

Stephen Dean, “Untitled,” 2013, 17 inches by 10 inches, glass, ink and rice paper

Sarah Charlesworth, “Carnival Ball,” 2012, Fuji Crystal archive print with lacquer frame, 41 inches by 32 inches 

With coexisting exhibitions set to debut June 21 at Baldwin Gallery, culture-clubbers Sarah Charlesworth and Stephen Dean will foster a whole new view. Charlesworth will show her latest series of photographs, collectively titled Available Light. An artist who emerged in the 1970s with other Pictures Generation members like Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons, Charlesworth has steadfastly used photography to explore the symbols of our culture.

The works in her Available Light series, like many of her earlier works, are contemporary still lifes of objects that, when viewed in the isolated and idolized context of fine art, reshape how one interprets their function or meaning. While including familiar images such as the dancing Shiva Nataraja, Charlesworth mainly depicts reflective objects like crystals, prisms, a bowl of water and an hourglass to examine the physical properties of light. What results is a collection of elegant, minimal and luminous portraits that appear to exist in a metaphysical realm. The ethereal works draw attention to light and reflection, altering one’s perception of not only what is pictured, but also one’s own surroundings. As Charlesworth contends, the emphasis in her photographic work has been to reformulate the visual models by which our society pictures the world.

Deconstructing cultural symbols is also central to Stephen Dean’s exploration as an artist, though he does so by saturating his sculptures and videos with color. He refashions commonplace objects by extracting their given functions and injecting them with vibrant colors, not only to alter their appearances, but also to alter our experience of them. In doing so, Dean draws attention to the everyday associations we have with color, assigning it to objects, signals and emotions. He also emphasizes the cultural significance of color in social and ritual contexts, as seen in his film Pulse (2001). Pulse captures footage from the Indian Holi Festival of Colors, in which flurries of people throw pigment at each other. In addition to film, the gradients, patchwork, glass and thermal cameras that the artist uses to diffuse color across an open space all result in a hypnotizing, electric encounter.

Dean’s exhibition at Baldwin Gallery, Works on Paper and Edges, will further his investigation of color through reconfiguration. In “Untitled” (2013), colored glass pins are set in the central points of a rectangular grid of solid and dotted lines on rice paper. The pins in the graph resemble the place markings on a map, creating a beautiful, delicate formation of color and geometric pattern. Switching focus from pin to line is an optical exercise that leads one to wonder what is fixed and what is fluid in this arrangement. Such questioning takes place for the viewer on an aesthetic and symbolic level in regards to all of Dean’s work; once one sees a recognizable object or symbol in an unexpected way, one values it differently, allowing it to take on an entirely new meaning. June 21-July 21, with opening reception for the artists, July 2, 6-8pm, 209 S. Galena St., baldwingallery.com