The hyperrealist painter Marc Dennis (b. 1969) applies his wry, witty sense of humor and technical mastery of his medium to his hyperrealist compositions, creating stunningly evocative still lifes or compelling works of institutional critique that suggest the darker side of things usually associated with beauty, luxury, and glamour. Armed with a keenly observant critical eye and a healthy taste for irony, he has always been comfortable with pushing the envelope, and the glorious formal elements of his paintings— their bold compositions and gorgeously rendered surfaces—both belie and enhance the subtly subversive commentaries they contain.
Dennis straddles the line between light and dark, pleasure and power. His arrangements of jewel-studded daisies, women’s silken undergarments, or piles of fuzzy teddy bears are so superficially delicious that they round the bend into a more dystopian vision. He carries that macabre sensibility into minutely observed anthropological studies that recall the painted perfection of Vermeer’s lighted interiors and the meticulous vision of Dutch vanitas. In these works, Dennis explores the withered shells of dead beetles and the sinewy carcasses of flayed meat, or delves into the iridescent feather patterns of domesticated birds, evaluating the surfaces and textures of nature’s glory with a morbid, scientific focus. Recent works place modern protagonists in conversation with canonized art historical works— investigating the contradictions and manipulations inherent to any civilized system, including that of the art world.
Dennis chooses to pierce the Brechtian divide between artwork, artist, and audience that has been preserved throughout the history of painting, and—much as Manet did with his seminal 1865 work Olympia—forces viewers into a position of active self-awareness. Often canvases feature a painting within a painting, depicting a human subject standing before a canonized work of art, such as Courbet’s Origin of the World or Caravaggio’s Bacchus, which Dennis reproduces to perfection. Opening a window onto the very act in which a viewer is presently engaged—the act of looking at work of art —these compositions rupture the psychological space of total absorption and enjoyment a painting is meant to offer, encouraging a more thoughtful, critical, and engaged relationship to the dynamics involved in the preservation of Culture.
Marc Dennis received his B.F.A. from the Tyler School of Art and his M.F.A. from The University of Texas at Austin. His paintings have been exhibited throughout the world and are included in numerous private and public collections, including those of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, John and Amy Phelan, Beth DeWoody and Firooz Zahedi, David and Jennifer Stockman, Bill and Maria Bell, Larry and Marilyn Fields, Sean and Tammy McCarthy, Michael Danoff and Jo Laird, The Rockwell Museum of Western Art, and The Neuberger Berman Collection.