Even hip replacement surgery couldn’t stop artist Dean Fleming from presenting his gouache paintings from 1964 on Thursday at the Visual Arts Center.
Fleming used Skype to tell the story of his work with gouache, a type of paint, and his travels in North Africa. Linda Henderson, curator and art history professor, said Fleming, who is recovering from surgery, lives in Colorado in Libre, one of the last 1960s art communities in existence. According to Henderson, Fleming had to go down the road to his ex-wife’s house to use a computer and the Internet.
“He was so disappointed when he couldn’t come,” Henderson said. “He is a storyteller, and of course, he doesn’t have a computer. [In Libre], he lives in this dome without email.”
According to Henderson, Fleming was one of the few artists in the 1960s who saw how the fourth dimension could be applied to art. Fleming said he was living in Pittsburgh when he began learning about the different functions of art besides just being a decoration on the wall.
“What I wanted to do was give geometry a liveliness that was not inherently straight lines, which could kind of be almost deadening to your spirit,” Fleming said. “That meant that if I made a grid [with] a specific form, the thing that would give it the liveliness would be the color.”
According to Fleming, by 1964 he was tired of dealing with Pittsburgh’s cold winters, so he and his friend decided to travel someplace warm. Fleming said they meant to go to India, where he would be able to paint and surround himself with spirituality, but they ended up in North Africa after taking the Yugoslav freighter to Tangier, Morocco.
“The first thing that I saw coming into North Africa was the brilliance of the light and the vibrancy of the color,” Fleming said. “The other quality that was immediately visible was that there was geometry. Geometries that were actually very close to what I was trying to deal with.”
According to art history graduate student Alex Grimley, it is a different experience to look at fourth-dimensional art compared to other dimensions.
“It takes time for the special ambiguity and complexity to read on my eyes,” Grimley said.
Henderson said she became familiar with the artist in 2001 when she was researching the fourth dimension of space.
“With the popularity of Einstein, everybody thinks the fourth dimension is time,” Henderson said. “Painting was supposed to be flat. Space was not supposed to be part of the deal.”