"Salami" by Lance Dehne

"At Play With Lance Dehne" NYArts Magazine Vol. 9. (March/April 2004) N. 3/4 pg. 63.

            Lance Dehne writes in his statement about Artineering, "It's about art, mechanics, sculpturology, engineering, botany, ornithology, ideology, physiology, sculpturology, colorology, and visionology. Conceptual ideas are rethought, reworked, fine tuned, and molded into a functional and aesthetic product." Seems all inclusive, heady, visionary, full of invented "-ologies" right? Well it is. The bottom line though is that it's about play. On the surface of things for Lance play comes down to the amusement derived from color, form and light so often the toys of artists.
            The tones are often high key, the purity of the pigment often primary, the shapes organic and rounded. He writes, "Round is fun. Painters use round all the time—round ladies with round faces dancing 'round with "roundly" curved musical instruments. Round with color is dessert. Everyone reacts to a shiny, round, red rubber ball." Children are usually attracted to this kind of stuff. But the combinations carry sophistication and carefulness in their juxtaposition that lifts them out of the simplistic understanding attributed to the youthful eye.
            His is a mature recreation; one well educated in the way things work as machines. The engineers mind is having fun. So it only follows that what he makes ends up looking like strange mechanized versions of things. Like in "Ballerina" where the parts of a female form are broken down into parts, given hinges, joints, pulleys, gears and belts like she was some clock-like mechanism set to rotate and swivel in a dance.
            The mechanical aspects of his work are most directly and humorously explored in the sculptures of the bird, guitar player, and 'grape stomp' pieces on view at his website artineering.com in the 'sketchbook' section. Also in this section are the hilarious drawings of everyday objects: mostly food. Each one is set in a contraption that either destroys it ('crab' and 'garlic'), hangs it out to dry ('salami') or prepares it for consumption ('wine','cheese', and 'coffee'.)
            'Salami' is my favorite. It reminds me of a seminar critique in grad school of someone's work that was dealing with unexpected humor. A peer of mine was asked to explain the role of randomity and weirdness in comedy. After some hesitation she said, "You know like a noodle in the bathroom." Everybody cracked up so hard many of us were crying. "A noodle in the bathroom"? What the hell does that mean. It caught us so off guard we were floored. I get that same feeling from 'Salami'. A salami log is hung out to dry with an apron in front of a bright sun. It's so simple, so mundane, so domestic, and so unexplainable like pasta on a toilet.
            This group also reminds me of early Sesame Street episodes with their animations of simple concepts like letters, numbers, sounds, distance, etc. The colored pencil outlined forms also have a '70's children's illustration feel most closely linked to the drawings shown in Golden Presses' Shufflebooks done by Richard Hefter and Stephen Moskof in 1970.
            For those of you who didn't have a deck a different noun or verb is presented on a card with a silly drawing of them which you could shuffle and lay out to create your own story ("And the Robot swam, and the fireman walked and the pickle bent, and my sister exploded, and the 2 porcupines flew, and the dog and my uncle hiccupped, and the duck cheered and got in trouble…" ad infinitum.) The drawings were astounding little renditions of concepts, objects, actions, and people that while not mechanized like Lance's work facilitated joy like little else for me as a child.
            This is not something lost on Lance. He writes in an artist's statement, "Yes, I did have an "Erector Set" when I was a kid. I also participated in the games "Mousetrap," "Operation," "Chutes and Ladders," even built a few "Mr. Potato Heads" and many, many model airplanes."
            The sketchbook section also offers us the most direct view into the toy-like mechanical aspects of Lance's work. The shapes are shown broken down and in the raw with and without color. They give us an insight in to the pseudo-motorization of pieces like "The Toss", and "The Dare" where with color and light playing through the forms we see the grander thesis given sculptural physicality as Lance explains 'to convey some sort of action or event".
            He's not involved in wild abandon though. There is a sense of restraint and perfectionism involved in what he does. The child is smart and well behaved: neither irascible nor rebellious. His work is visionary but not revolutionary and certainly not violent or messy. His creative process appears to start on the draftsman's table not in the painter's studio. His fascination for moving parts and components in machinery is his major inspiration not a desire to change the world. In terms of comparisons, Lance expresses the energy of his 20th century forefathers Miro, Gorky, Dekooning, and in a more contemporary context Carroll Dunham, Elizabeth Murray, and Frank Stella (particularly the maximalist work of recent years though not as chaotic as Stella).
            On view in Berlin in coming months will be, in Lance's words, "defaced blueprints and small masonite board constructions with a sculptural quality like that seen in 'The Toss'."

Check out artineering.com (where you can see an in-flight movie which is pretty cool) and keep your eye on nyartsmagazine.com for exhibition announcements and press releases about Lance's show.