One enters through the doorway to be met by dozens of faces staring back. There’s catchy, upbeat music playing in the background, and a fashion show echoing the same faces repeated and overlapping. This overload of stimuli evokes a familiar feeling found when scrolling through social media and the saturation of today’s pop culture. The millennial generation is often criticized for being overindulgent, narcissistic, and self-worshipping. Artist, Dean Christensen is exploring, exposing, and embracing this sensational aspect of perceived millennial culture in an unabashed, celebratory way.
Christensen goes above and beyond a typical gallery show of paintings on the wall. Within the
show, one will also find a music video and fashion line part of the artist’s brand: Deansace. This
idea of commercial branding brings to mind artists such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Jeff
Koons. All of which are considered to be rockstars of the art world. While Christensen does put
on an entertaining show, there are underlying questions about our society’s obsession with the
self that the exhibition inspires the viewer to ask. On the surface, an onlooker may think this is
just another narcissistic millennial, but the deliberate comical embracing of these social media
practices shed a satirical light on the phenomenon. It feels as though he’s criticizing this culture
of self-worship in a series that is doing just that.
Of course the intrigue of this exhibition does not end with its concept. This artist is a skilled
painter whose supple techniques bring to mind Lucian Freud or Jenny Saville. Amongst the
paintings, there appears to be two distinct bodies of work complementing each other illuminating
the concept as a whole. One series includes the direct reference to social media platforms such
as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Works such as “Selfie #5” embody painterly realism
juxtaposed with crisp social media icons giving the subject a context. “Selfie #6” is a good
example of the artist’s emphasis on fleshiness and creating a sensory quality of the paint. Some
works incorporate high numbers of validating comments and likes, as seen in “Selfie #8.” In
contrast, “Selfie #9” received no such attention, likes, or comments: a millennial’s worst
The other body of work is composed of religious iconography featuring the artist’s comically
distorted face in place of religious biblical figures. Interestingly, these works also reveal the
common tool used for the contemporary selfie: the smart phone. “Medonna and Me #1”
presents a colorful reinterpretation in which the “sacred” child is taking a selfie within the piece.
The artist reveals the ridiculous nature of social media tendencies for self-worship by making
people acutely aware of it. Appropriately, these works are referred to as the Deanassiance.
The art of portraiture is a historically rooted art form practiced for centuries. Portraits reflect not
only the subject, but also the times in a greater context. While these are self-portraits, in
traditional terms, they don’t read as autobiographical. It is more as if he has become an
archetype and a catalyst for the idea of self-absorption through social media. This is true of
selfies in general; we curate ourselves in a filtered, edited, cropped version of our life to present
to the world. This show allows one to ponder these questions by turning a mirror to society in a
Many predicted that painting would die as a result of the invention of photography. When
abstract artists demonstrated the vitality and resiliency of painting, many claimed portraiture
would fade from relevancy. Dean Christensen contradicts both premonitions in his first solo
show: “The Millennial Man: Me, My Selfie, and I”. This captivating and provocative exhibition, on
view at Galerie Hertz, is one you won’t want to miss.
Galerie Hertz 1253 S. Preston St.
Louisville, KY 502-581-8277