What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

December 19, 2019

Dean Monogenis
Side Project
Walter Maciel Gallery
November 2 - December 21, 2019

Dean Monogenis

I imagine Dean Monogenis as a child, sitting on the floor with an array of building blocks in front of him. He is constructing structures that attempt to defy gravity by stacking differently colored and shaped pieces of wood and "Lincoln Logs" creating off-balanced structures, that immediately come cascading down, only to be resurrected again, in a different arrangement.

In Side Project, Monogenis makes manifest these imaginary combinations. On exhibit are playful acrylic on paper depictions of painted blocks, cut logs and other building materials, piled and strapped together in unusual ways. As painted, the combinations are delicately poised and balanced. Their size and weight remains unknown as Monogenis creates them with exacting detail, but without context, centered within a blank space. It is important to note that Monogenis is not painting something already fabricated and photographed, but rather these constructions are imagined and arranged in his mind— he could be thinking of assemblages made with children's blocks or full-scale building materials.

Bound Angle (2019) is a painting that depicts a sculptural arrangement of cut wooden logs with dark bark and an occasional protruding branch, a yellow strap and four differently proportioned and colored (white, orange, blue, green) rectangular blocks. As depicted, three logs are stacked on top of the white block, that serves as the base of the sculpture. It is just longer and wider than the logs. Strapped to and encircling the green block are five logs. A long blue plank balances on top of the top log on which balances, as if a see-saw, a smaller orange block and another shorter log. If this piece actually existed, would it balance? How big would it be? These questions do not have to be answered, as what makes the works so enjoyable is imagining their physical presence.

Front End Loader (2019) is similarly confounding as it hovers between the possible and absurd. Is the depicted sculpture of geometric shapes balanced? Could it stand, or would it collapse? Here, Monogenis combines a plank and three rectangular blocks. They are strapped together with a wide orange strap. This amalgamation sits on two wooden logs and abstractly references a front end loader. On top of this stack is a longer plank from which hangs an open rectangle that is held in place with another orange strap and balanced by two open cubes that have the look and feel of cinderblocks. It is unlikely that this work would actually balance, however in Monogenis' painting, yet it appears like capable of carrying its load.

Precarious Me (2018) is a humorous impossibility. A yellow and white beach umbrella leans left, angled from a yellow strap that wraps around an aqua rectangular block that is bisected by a darker blue horizontal plank. These forms rest on a wooden stump that is approximately the same height as the umbrella and umbrella pole. Atop the aqua box are two more boxes, both green. One is divided by a yellow stripe, perhaps connected to the yellow strap that holds these objects together.

Because Monogenis presents these assemblages in a bare white space, they take on a life of their own. Some are personified, others surreal juxtapositions of disparate materials where the combination of the myriad pieces becomes an intriguing concoction that resonates on formal as well as metaphoric levels.