"Robert Dean Stockwell"

Robert Dean Stockwell, by Matthew Bourbon, September 2006 from the magazine "ARTnews"


In this hit-and-miss show, actor Robert Dean Stockwell's approach to photomontage proved uneven. The 28 collages dating from the past four years demonstrated the ease with which artists working in this medium can slip from powerful communication to heavy-handedness.

Stockwell's works, while finely executed, falter in part because of their political editorializing. What Goes Up (2006) combines such loaded images as rockets, a gas mask, and an African tribesman with other elements. In Pandora (2003) Stockwell illustrates the opening of the mythological box by showing a human skull emerging from the center of a castle while a military helicopter hovers overhead.

A sardonic humor often undercuts the gravitas. For instance, in Sunday Machine (2005), one can see a Monty Python-esque hand of God manipulating a mechanical statue within a large cathedral. The inclusion of an atomic cloud among the parishioners, however, seems to add little.

In the end, the artist's best images are his simplest. Waterworks (2006) depicts cutouts of the Life magazine logo being flushed down four giant watery spirals. Here Stockwell successfully balances the two poles of his art--strident existential musings and a decidedly droll sense of humor.

Matthew Bourbon