Lesley Heller Gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition by Donna Dennis featuring a new sculptural installation and related gouache paintings on paper. Dennis is widely renowned for her large, complex architectural sculptures which incorporate sound and light. Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer marks the first time Dennis has incorporated video projection into her work. It is also the first time she has married her three-dimensional installation work with her two-dimensional works on paper. Dennis’ gouache paintings, which are displayed in a gallery adjacent to the installation, serve as inspiration for the sculpture and are incorporated into the projected video.
In the darkened back gallery, viewers will enter a night sky and find themselves looking up at what appears to be part of a giant ore dock, a familiar sight on Lake Superior. Perched within the structure of columns, beams, ramps and stairways, sit two small houses. One house faces the viewer and the other faces away. This house, “The Gazer”, looks toward a view of water, ship and sky and watches as starry night changes to dawn and back to night.
Dennis is one of a small group of groundbreaking women-including Alice Aycock, Jackie Ferrara and Mary Miss— who pushed sculpture toward the domain of architecture in the early 1970s. Deborah Everett writes in Sculpture Magazine “When Donna Dennis created her earnest, plain-spoken Tourist Cabins at the outset of her career, they had the impact of cultural icons.” Drawing from overlooked fragments of rural and urban vernacular American architecture, her sculptures— tourist cabins, hotels, subway stations, roller coasters—have represented stopping places on the journey through life.
Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer continues the theme. With its two perched houses and a sky that changes from dawn to star-filled night, it is about time, the transformation of energy, the final journey and our collective journey into the unknown.