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Review: Joel Dean/Alderman Exhibitions

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During the mid-1980s, Jean Baudrillard traversed the great American West in a style uncannily Kerouacian, chronicling the excursion as he encountered vast Southwestern deserts, cultural residue of the Westward Expansion, neon motel vacancy signs, interstate freeways, strip malls, Sierras, Vegas and L.A. Baudrillard’s conception of the West—later published in his travelogue America (1986)—is that of an open, empty landscape of hyperreality where images and illusions echo and overlap. Baudrillard’s “desert of the real” is the point of departure for Joel Dean’s solo exhibition “The Real Problem,” a collection of painting and sculpture that reads at once referentially dense and emotionally sparse, analytically stratified and tonally flat. Exemplified by the barren desert landscape present in four large canvases—”Spring,” “Summer,” “Fall,” and “Winter”—Dean’s concern is with vast, disjointed simulations of reality, unanchored and mirage-like, as real as the reality they appear to simulate. While the disparate works that accompany Dean’s desert landscapes reside within a single, intricate conceptual framework, the real problem in Dean’s exhibition is negotiating an artwork’s ability to utilize or expand upon a theoretical foundation without appearing simply illustrative of it. (Pat Elifritz)

Through October 21 at Alderman Exhibitions, 1138 West Randolph

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