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American Paintings - 1980-present

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Dallas Chaos II

20th century
212.3 cm x 244 cm (83 9/16 in. x 96 1/16 in.)

Peter Dean (Berlin, 1934 - 1993, New York) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Lorraine Dean and Gregory Dean, 1994
Accession Number: 1994.39

Born to Jewish parents on the eve of World War II, Peter Dean and his family fled Germany in 1938 and settled in upper Manhattan. After he matured, Dean pursued a career in geology while teaching himself to paint. Undoubtedly seeing a connection between the two fields, he once noted admiringly that “geological formations break all the rules.” Two aesthetics dominated the scene during Dean’s early career—Abstract Expression and Minimalism—neither of which particularly suited him. Allying himself with a cohort of likeminded painters, he practiced figuration and addressed political issues at a time when both were out of fashion. His subjects were often dark moments in history, including John F. Kennedy’s assassination (in Dallas Chaos, also in The Blanton’s collection) and that of Lee Harvey Oswald (in Dallas Chaos II). The latter presents a garish mash-up of contorted figures rendered with a broad range of expressionistic painting techniques, from centuries-old sgrafitto, in which impasto is incised with lines, to the modern use of glitter to animate surfaces. The composition centers on Jack Ruby’s gun, but a variety of threats proliferate, including the voracious gaze of the media.

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