Review of “Polarity and the Space Between” Works by Dennis Hayes IV at Re:View Contemporary Gallery
I’ve been toying lately with this idea that all art is dark, or all good art anyway. That it comes from a dark place, and what it does with that darkness is what determines whether it will be good art. Seeing the work of Dennis Hayes IV at Re:View Contemporary’s new show crystalized that idea. The show is an assemblage of mostly two-dimensional works and a few sculptures. All the materials, down to the paint and graphite, which have gone into these mixed-media pulsars of dark energy are repurposed, things that have been thrown away by other people. There are delicate ink drawings on vacuum bags and paintings on de-wheeled skateboards. The sculptures are mostly made from scrounged lumber. Clearly, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or becomes so in the hands of Hayes. Where such dumpster-culled materials could lapse into laziness or peachiness (oh, the world is filled with garbage!) here they become truly beautiful, breaking their unequivocal associations with dirt and misery because, as all good craft does, they point to something beyond themselves.
The paintings in the show were what caught my eye the most. At their best they straddled a balance between high concept, raw materials and illusionistic beauty. When questioned about his work, Hayes comes back and back to randomness and balance. As a young graffiti artist, his tag was # 17, because, he says, 17 is the most commonly occurring random number. In this solo exhibition he juggles found objects that indeed seem random, vibrating, dissonant color combinations and traditional symbolism (twisted trees, circles, geometric shapes) with a touch light enough to cut the sadness and the indignation that these cast off, degraded chunks of human refuse inevitably attract. You can feel his delight in mucking around with objects that others have deemed useless; one recurring image consists of layers of impacted sediment in delicious rainbow colors that manages to be cheerful and melancholy at the same time. The lightheartedness peering out of many of these works puts “Polarity and the Space Between” on a level with The Heidelberg Project; it speaks the same deceptively simple language of found objects fortified with layers of symbolism, and dwells in the same strange universe, where darkness and whimsy mingle freely and without reservation. And, like Tyree Guyton, Dennis Hayes IV is simply a good artist, one who knows when to pop something out at you and when to beckon you in, who lands each piece in the space where randomness and balance settle in and start necking. To really taste this, check out the paintings “Polarity and the Space Between” and “Entangled Stretch.” “Polarity and the Space Between” is on view at Re:View Contemporary until Nov. 19.