"Roll of the Dice"

by Rick Romancito

Tempo Magazine," The Taos News, October 4-10, 2007



Robert Dean Stockwell Gambles on a New Series of Collages and Three Dimensional Works

Robert Dean Stockwell, the actor-turned-Taos artist, isn't about to let anyone hang a label around his neck. Any time somebody does, he's quick to shrug it off like a dog who hates to be collared.

In his new exhibition, "Collages and Bones" at R.B. Ravens Gallery, there are works that appear highly charged with symbolism. You'll see cross shapes made from gambling dice coated in 23-carat gold leaf and tiny milagros, some in the shape of tiny human beings with a hand upraised as if in greeting, and others in boxes like surreal doll theaters. Yet, when pressed about imagery that suggests, even to the layman, a commentary on religion, the church, wagering or idolatry,
he balks and feints with his left, deflecting the question with a skill honed by decades of Hollywood banter.

The show will open with a reception Friday (Oct. 5), 5-7 p.m., at R.B. Ravens' new location at 221 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

His last show, 2004's "The Spagyric Eye," also at Ravens but in its Ranchos de Taos location, revealed a deft and insightful way with collage, showing what an artist with a keen eye colored by a definite Dadaist glint might do with stacks and stacks of LIFE magazines. Here, he's taken that same glint and applied it to dice, hence the "Bones" of the title, as in "roll dem bones, bruthah!" But, again, there's no reference to gambling on the part of the artist, only what the viewer might bring with them.

He likes to admire the way the light illuminates the different colored dice pieces. "I think it rivals stained glass," he said,
puffing occasionally on a politically incorrect stogie. "Sometimes I think it's even cooler than stained glass." He says the
milagros "curl and try to climb up the cross," suggesting again that connection to the sacred and the profane. "I never let them get more than five inches up," he said proudly.

Stockwell admits to being a cypher, a person whose work passes through him with little or no influence. "Everyone is aware of what a cross symbolizes," he said. "But, I didn't see any reason why a cross couldn't be made out of dice, and create that paradox and have it standing there in front of you so the audience confronts that and deals with it the way that they want."

OK, so what's really going on? Is Stockwell playing with the viewer's expectations just for the hell of it? "No, it's nothing
like that," he says when pressed about what appears to be obvious symbolism, "and there isn't anything specific in the collages
anyway. Some people see them, they write reviews and they see political stuff in them, they'll see something anti-war or pro this or that. And, I never have any of those thoughts in my head when I'm making collages. I totally rely on my unconscious and insights. And whatever comes out comes out."

Stockwell has made a couple of movies with director David Lynch, and in fact includes him as a collector. There's an interesting parallel with the way Stockwell approaches visual imagery that is akin to Lynch's, particularly in the way some of the latter's films contain inexplicable symbolism that seems to exist only to create disquiet and maybe a little irritation. Anyone remember seeing "Eraserhead"? Stockwell's work is, of course, unique to his own perspective, but there are peripheral similarities.

"Something interesting can come out if you open yourself up that way," he said.

Stockwell has had one man shows at the Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif.; Gerald Peters in Dallas, Texas; as well as the R.B. Ravens Gallery in Ranchos de Taos.

He has a host of collectors, including Dennis Hopper and the aforementioned David Lynch. Stockwell, also known as "Brother Cavil" on the television series "Battlestar Galactica," has been an actor most of his life, appearing in such films as "Long Day's Journey into Night" and "Blue Velvet," directed by Lynch.

R.B. Ravens Gallery is located at 221 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, near the Taos Art Museum and Fechin House. The gallery is the venue for an active calendar of contemporary artists' exhibits as well as a showplace for pre-1930s Dine textiles, jewelry, Pueblo pottery, Hopi kachina figures, and books on Southwest American art. The show continues through Nov. 15.

For more information, call (505) 758-7322 or (505) 758-1446.


The End