Monday, July 12, 2004

Max Dean at Susan Hobbs -- N. Post, July 3, 2004

Max Dean’s latest operatic-scale video projection at the Susan Hobbs Gallery has the usual top-grade technological production value and virtual awesomeness we’ve come to expect from the man who has been building mechanical-type art since the 1970s.

Two years ago, Dean filled the same gallery with a video-installation called Mist, which projected the mighty Niagara Falls onto a giant curving screen. It was just like being there with the sound of thundering water completely engulfing the room and drowning out any chance of conversation. And, the sexual seduction which that natural wonder of the world so ably embodies was doubly and hilariously reinforced in Dean’s video with the on-again/off-again appearance of a pair of woman’s hands lifting the curtain of rushing water up to reveal her naked legs, as though the falls was her own skirt she was hiking upward.

Dean is definitely attracted to the blatant masculinity of rushing water. On the phone in Ottawa he says, "This is not a very politically correct show, I’m afraid. I’m a Cancer, so I love water. I love the situation [the falls] puts you in, of dropping over the edge, of jumping without a fence. The sexual pull of that is enormous."

Snap is part two of a planned trilogy. This time, you walk into the gallery to face a head-on view of Niagara. A man’s forearm slowly emerges out of the watery scene and then snaps his fingers hard. For the finale, you have to walk outside, down the alley and through the gallery’s back door where a second multi-screen video projects a view from one of the observation portals behind the falls. Out of the haze a paper airplane glides gently into the rushing water before disappearing into a watery sheet of whiteness. Just as it disappears the other video’s snapping fingers are heard, like the lost paper bird has been caught on the other side between thumb and finger.

Why finger snapping? Dean says he’s attracted to the gesture because of its many possible meanings. "Around 1991 I started exploring reckless behaviour and how it relates to the falls and that power of inevitability," he says admitting, too, that the work is quite personal. (Dean has recently split from long-time girlfriend Ydessa Hendeles.) "It’s all represented in the falls. It’s not about sensation as much as the decision aspect of, ah, jumping in. The snap is like a commitment to a decision. The snap decision. There’s a certain recklessness."

More snapping continues upstairs with photographs, a video and an image of an arm that’s triggered to snap when motion is detected. --co

Max Dean’s Snap runs until July 31 at Susan Hobbs Gallery, 137 Tecumseth Street. www.susanhobbs.com. $1500-$45,000.

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