Born in Philadelphia in 1953, artist Dean Snyder grew up on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and spent family summer holidays on the boardwalks and arcades of the New Jersey shore — where the bright lights and seductive displays of the carnival sideshows left lasting memories. The tidal push-pull between attraction and repulsion, the potent mixture of pleasure and risk, and the fine balance of sunshine and noir that is found there has fueled Snyder’s work from the start. After art school training and years of studio work, Snyder became known for sculptures crafted of wood and rawhide, some literally tattooed with fantastical drawings. Almost Blue debuts a new body of work made over the past year and a half: it is the culmination of a decade of studio experimentation and marks the unveiling of a dramatic new phase in the artist’s work.
These new sculptures represent a fusion of organic sources and high-tech materials, using carbon fibers for structure and glossy auto enamels to dazzling visual effect. Eye-popping color is the most striking new element in the exhibition. Constructed of epoxy composites, woven carbon fibers, cast optical resin, and laser-cut stainless steel, these works may be coated with as many as twenty layers of metallic-flake paints in the kind of luscious candy colors often seen glittering on hot rods and surf boards.
Casino flash and cartoonish shapes merge with organic structures and mythological stories in these objects. Situated in a gallery designed as one immersive and mysterious setting, these new forms blend the energy of opposing elements — of good and evil, or what is dangerous yet alluring. Carnivorous pitcher plants, narcotic poppies, delicately deadly spider webs, and various bodily organs are all evoked in surreal forms that dance between narrative and abstraction.
Dean Snyder completed an undergraduate degree in photography and sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1974, followed by a British Arts Council fellowship to study sculpture at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry, England. His postgraduate work in sculpture was completed in 1978 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Snyder currently serves as Professor of Sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.