Dennis Lee Mitchell | Infinite Musings

10 Dec 2021 - 30 Jan 2022

JACKSON, WYOMING - TAYLOE PIGGOTT GALLERY is pleased to present Infinite Musings, an exhibition of works by artist Dennis Lee Mitchell on view from December 10th through January 30th 2022. Utilizing acetylene torches to create layers of smoke on paper and canvas, Dennis Lee Mitchell creates surreal worlds into which we travel willingly, our eye leading the way. One work draws us into its depths in undulating ropelike layers of velvety black tumbled upon one another, the next appears like a far-off galaxy, perhaps a wrinkle in time encapsulated in smoke. “I draw with smoke as a way to render images of mutability. The result is a symbolic condensation from beginning to end, apotheosizing the smoke,” Mitchell says. A reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibition will be hosted on Saturday, December 18 from 5 to 8pm; all are invited to attend.


As an undergrad, Dennis Lee Mitchell found himself frustrated with the properties of paint. “I would put the paint on and I’d always look at the paint and say, well, nothing’s happening; it’s just sitting there.” Time and materiality were not lending him the clarity of voice he sought. “I knew I wanted to use heat. I wanted to use something in transition as I did my work.” First, he discovered ceramics. “I could just weld the clay together [with acetylene torches]. I loved it, because it was right there, real fast, and one day, there was cheap paper next to me and I put the torch to it […] and I was totally taken by that.”


Each work on paper involves nearly 30-40 experimental ’proofs’ before the artist is satisfied. To achieve deep black requires about 20 or so layers of smoke. The paper is heated with an oxidized torch, resulting in the feeling of infinite depth underlying each work in this exhibition. The work on canvas has been a long time coming and is an achievement of painstaking attention and manipulation of media. The canvas is not burned in the method of Alberto Burri and his Arte Povera compatriots, but in fact coated effectively with smoke. Mitchell clearly relishes in the intellectual challenge of attempting the impossible. “Most of this work I do is always on the edge of materiality. […] In the past, I would make things and it always seemed like the work I did [that I liked] was on the fringe of being there. They’re almost not there.” The seductive void of the black work both flirts with Reinhardt’s tenet of art-as-art and presents something entirely intangible, beyond the “limiting thing.”


Dennis Lee Mitchell lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area and is a 2016-2017 recipient of a Pollock/Krasner Foundation Grant. Mitchell has exhibited extensively both domestically and abroad, with numerous solo exhibitions across the country over the past few years. Mitchell’s work has been critically reviewed in the Denver Art Review, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Chicago Art Magazine, and has been the subject of scholarly essays by Donald Kuspit, H. Peter Seeves, Victor M. Cassidy and Paul Klein. Mitchell’s work is in the permanent collection of the Illinois State Art Museum, Chicago, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City and the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.