Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Dean Arlen

When communities become public galleries I think our country will be civilized – Dean Arlen 2005

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Dean Arlen sculptures and drawings at CCA7’s main gallery 2002

Is it important for an artist to have a large body of work to understand them? Or is it the quality of the work we see that should be contemplated? Or more so, what of concepts yet to be made, should an artist’s work be considered important based purely on conversations about the work? These are the question that comes to mind first when I think about Dean Arlin the artist. He took Commonwealth Fellowship at the Ontario College of Art in 1994. He showed work at the Trinidad Art Society and he has won a competition in Trinidad in the 1997 for sculpture that was not realized by the creators. He has tried to get other artist involved in community environmental art projects over the years, and has produced one show at CCA7 in 2002.

It is not for want of trying that Dean Arlen has produced so little, he has spent more time focusing on creating a groundwork for the works he intends to make. This is difficult at the best of times, and even more so in Mr. Arlin’s instance because of the fact that projects such as his are practically unheard of. He has managed to work with architect Sean Leonard in 2003, the beginning of his decade long vision realized at last. He also intends on creating environmental sculpture with other artists on the campus of the University of the West Indies sometime this year.

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Wall painting at the National Museum exterior walls 1999

Dean Arlin’s work is also steeped in admiration, respect and mimicry of the illustrative powers of Christopher Cozier and Edward Bowen, leading many to question where Bowen’s work ends and Arlin’s begins? Looking at Arlin’s work at CCA7, despite the clear comparisons, Arlen was able to assert some of his own voice in his drawings, He did this by finding his own iconography. But he asserted himself moreso in his sculptural forms that he accentuated by creating a grid system of tape on the floor, making the seventy-two foot space of the gallery actually meaningful to his body of work by incorporating it into his sense of architectural structure.

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He titled many of his drawings ‘settlements.’ He said that he wanted to focus on the shanties that cropped up around urban spaces. Exactly why was not clear, but it satisfied his desire to combine illustration with sculpture. All who came away from his show were pleasantly surprised by his ability to put down his visions as well as his genuine desire to work in the vein of his mentors. Whether his work is memorable for its realization, or for his efforts to create more social spaces remains to be seen. What is known is that Mr. Arlen’s desire to do all that he can to follow his idea of sculpture and drawing is laudable on an island that considers art very little and sculpture almost not at all. – Adele 2005

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