Review: Dexter Dalwood at Gagosian Gallery

By Willy Blackmore, Special to LAist

In his new series of paintings, Endless Night, on display at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills through November 7th, British artist Dexter Dalwood continues to draw from celebrity and pop culture in his depiction of famous suicides and deaths, both from reality and fiction. With less detail and looser bush work than found in works like Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse or the Ophelia-referencing Sunny Von Bulow, the paintings included in Endless Night tend towards larger fields of color, flat perspectives and some cartoonish detailing in the vein of Philip Guston.

The thirteen pieces are spread throughout the gallery, giving the large oil paintings ample space. Included are the scenes of Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide, William Burroughs’ William Tell attempt gone awry and the hanging death of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, amongst others. But with no titles on the wall and no artist’s statement posted, these narrative-driven works, so dependent on the viewer knowing the death at hand, seem to be displayed with less than-adequate explanation. A printed list of titles, sizes, etc. is available form the desk, however, which is a necessary key to navigating the exhibition.

An LAist favorite was “The Umbrella Murder,” featuring two images of the Waterloo Bridge in London, one with Parliament in the background. The picture plane is broken up into three sections, much like a comic strip, with the bridge views on either side, a graphic image of a knife on a stark red background intersecting them. Unlike the other static images found in the show, the structural illusion to narrative in “The Umbrella Murder” and the contrast in detail and color between the bridge views and the knife give the piece a sense of drama and foreboding that the others sometimes lack, even if the historical reference—the assassination of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov—will be lost to many, excluding astute Cold War and literary history buffs.

In “Gatsby,” a painting of a pool scene recalling the death of Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, a red inflatable raft looks to be of a far more recent vintage than whatever pool toys might’ve been floating in Gatsby’s Jazz Age Long Island mansion. Less than a historic infidelity, the raft can be seen as a clue to understanding the collection as a whole; that these deaths—of a man murdered out of jealousy, the suicide someone aging with chronic pain, a violent car crash—are stories that exist in multiple iterations beyond these headline-grabbing incidents that we collectively know and remember.

Gagosian Gallery, 456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9400