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A Layered History: From Semitransparent to Opaque by Dean Kessmann

May 1, 2014 - June 14, 2014

FURTHERMORE is extremely pleased to debut, A Layered History: From Semitransparent to Opaque, a solo project and site-specific photo installation by Dean Kessmann. Devised as an artist proof for a permanent installation, the monumental work-- spanning forty feet wide-- dissembles the pages of the ubiquitous art history survey textbook, 'Janson's History of Art,' in order to reconsider the totality or fatality of subjective art history from the Western canon.

For more than a decade, Kessmann has explored both the act of photography and the process of photographic (re)presentation without a camera. Instead, the artist has used scanners and various other tools and ephemera that surround taking pictures in order to usurp our perceptions of the captured and exposed image. A Layered History: From Semitransparent to Opaque extends these investigations by distilling Janson's book-- a touchstone that is sometimes read, often ignored, and frequently cited by generations of art students-- into an even more primary form, the unrolled scroll.

At FURTHERMORE, an archaic timeline becomes and arc...presenting a vista, or panorama, rather than successive pages within royal chapters. Kessmann has scanned each page as one would a positive transparency, capturing elements from both sides of each page, and creating a linear yet overlapping procession of illuminated images. The portable volume's history is unpacked into a grand tour of the matter of its universe.

(And the question in the back of one's mind might be, 'Where is its dark mater? The artists of color, women, outsiders and outliers?')

This process of scanned, mechanical illumination also evokes light tables used by art historians for sorting slide transparencies in preparation for lectures, as well as the photo editor's light table, where images are chosen based on their fitness for a particular commercial or ideological purpose. In each of these associative scenarios, Kessmann draws attention to the perils of looking at images chosen by others, where an artist's work might be pressed into the service of someone else's ideas without concern for the work's original impulses, motives, or intentions. And as well, he creates an opportunity for the viewer to more actively participate in the natural selection of images, and press them into service of their own ends.


Dean Kessmann's work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at Furthermore, Washington, D.C, American University Museum, Washington, D.C, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO, Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, St. Louis, MO, and Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA, among others. His exhibitions have been reviewed in Art Papers, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and ARTFORUM. Kessmann has received numerous Artist Fellowship Grant Awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He has been a semi-finalist for the Sondheim Prize and has won awards from The Trawick Prize. In 2009 he was an artist-in-residence at Light Work in Syracuse, NY. Finally, Kessmann is an Associate Professor at The George Washington University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate students.

Image Caption: A Layered History: From Semitransparent to Opaque, 2014, archival pigment print, 58" x 480"

Special thanks to the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at The George Washington University & Sculptural Constructs.