"The Millennial Man: Me, My Selfie, and I" Review

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

humorous way.

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

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