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Never Underestimate The Influence Of Dean Kessmann

About the artist: Dean Kessmann is a relatively new, but influential, artistic force on the national scene. A lifelong resident of D.C., he has lived and worked in many of our nation's capital cities, including both Washington, D.C. and the Maryland suburbs. Known as a strong presence in the academic community, his many published works have won him fellowships at the American Academy of Art, the academy's highest award. In 2004, he was selected as a member of the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. A prolific designer of jewelry and other decorative arts, his jewelry work and designs have won multiple awards from the Society of Designers of America and the Visual Artists Guild.

Precious metals, like gold and silver, have always been associated with high status and luxury, and this association stretches back to the founding fathers of this nation. These days, gold and silver are the primary means of wealth for some of our leaders and celebrities, but they are also the coins of status for the average Joe, whose money goes a long way in helping our nations economy. So it should not come as a surprise that Dean Kessmann is a lover of gold. His current studio located in Rockville, MD, is filled with beautiful, original, and thoroughly modern art. In his frequent visits to his Washinton studio, one can also see his other works, including the aforementioned “endants,” “sculptures,” and “links,” which he designed for The George Washington University School of Art.

The first of his many musical passions was music, specifically classical, opera, ballet, and chamber music. He attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in the early nineteen hundreds, and pursued a degree there under the direction of curator Dr. Nathaniel Woolf. According to Woolf, Dean Kessmann “erred” on several occasions when applying for positions at the university, and it was this connection with Woolf that helped him secure a position there. After graduating, Dean Kessmann worked first for conductor, then piano player, and finally, under the tutelage of Frank Verdon, an award winning composer. Eventually, Kessman moved into the recording studio as a session musician, working with a number of renowned musicians, such as Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Ebele Chicas, and others.

Besides music, Dean Kessmann is fond of collecting beautiful objects. His eclectic favorites include precious metals, fine art, photographs, paintings, and glass. He has had the pleasure of curating for the Art Institutes of America, the Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and numerous other museums and galleries in Washington, DC, and throughout the United States. He has curated or arranged for artistic presentations at the Aspen Arts Festival in Colorado, the Gay and Lesbian International Festival in New York City, the San Francisco AIDS Memorial Center, and the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival. In addition to his travels and gallery shows Dean regularly presents lectures and musical theater at universities, community colleges, senior high schools, and other centers, including the University of Maryland University College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the College of Southern California, the University of Florida at Gainesville, the University of Miami at Florida, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the University of Denver, and the University of Minnesota, among others.

A close observer of contemporary artists, Dean is well known for his spontaneous and intuitive process, which often results in unconventional and often unexpected pieces. As he has said: “I try to keep my paintings hanging while they are still loose, so that the physical act of pulling them off the canvas and putting them somewhere else immediately breaks the connection between the painting and my imagination.” A close friend of Richard Grossman, Dean began a relationship with Grossman in 1957, while Grossman was studying in New York City under the then-chief artist of the Natural History museum, curator Dr. Harry Harrison. According to Grossman, Dean complimented Grossman's “beautiful, incisive paintings” and repeatedly encouraged him to develop and advance his work.

After a spell with the museum staff, Dean relocated to Washington, DC, where he pursued a variety of academic, political, and artistic pursuits for the rest of his life. However, he remained active in performing, writing, painting, and teaching throughout his career, including guest lectures at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Saatchi Gallery in London, the Saatchi Gallery in Paris, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, and the Adler Planetarium in Dallas. A favorite of both conceptual artists and visual artists, Dean's paintings are characterized by their intuitive, playful style. According to Dean, “My paintings don't have a message. I just paint what comes to me.” According to critics, Dean has “spent much of his professional life experimenting with media, culture, style, subject, and form,” and has grown as an artist over the years.

In 1986, Dean took a leave from Washington, DC to teach at the Corcoran School of Art in New York. The Corcoran School is affiliated with the Academy of Art University in New York City. A year later, Dean received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Champaign, thanks in part to a thesis entitled “The Political Thought of Dean Kessmann,” by Professor William Collins. In the thesis, Collins compared American art in the early nineteenth century with art of Europe in the same period.

Currently, Dean is focusing on new works that will be released via the Corcoran Gallery. He will be showcasing his paintings at an upcoming exhibition called “Exhibitions: Reflections of America's Class of '77” in New York. Other exhibitions include Works in Progress, curated by Jon Bitzer, and Works in Progress II, co-curated by curator Dan Kennedy. All in all, it appears that Dean Kessmann will continue to develop and expand upon his interests in the area of digital information, painting, and the intersections between these various fields.

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