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Artists Chelsea Dean And Osceola Refetoff Explore Desert Landscapes At Launch LA

L: Chelsea Dean, “Within the Present III,” hand-cut photograph, 24k gold leaf, washi tape, and found objects, 2019 R: Osceola Refetoff, Remains of the Fruitland Fire, 2016 (First printed: 2017)

Paradox California, a two-person exhibition presenting works by photographer Osceola Refetoff and mixed-media artist Chelsea Dean, runs through Saturday, March 23 at LAUNCH LA (170 S. LaBrea Ave, LA, 90036).  The two artists were paired for the show because of their mutual enthusiasm for the deserts of Southern California.  Refetoff and Dean collaborated on the show’s title, which addresses the contradiction between the promise of paradise to be found in the “Golden State,” and the harsh realities of much of its terrain and opportunities.  Though different in style and medium, their bodies of work complement one another.  Each finds beauty and looks for the truth in landscapes transformed by weather, time, and circumstance, as well as evanescent traces of civilization. The works suggest both impermanence and timelessness. 

Osceola Refetoff‘s interest is in documenting humanity’s impact on the world – both the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. His parallel careers as an editorial and fine art photographer are characterized by an evocative, cinematic understanding of how scale, point of view, architecture, and motion can be expressed as both information and experience of a given place.

Refetoff is the 2018 Los Angeles Press Club Photojournalist of the Year.  His current focus is an expansive set of portfolios surveying the human presence in the deserts of the American West.  He also won in the Photo Essay category for the KCET Artbound story A Glimpse of Another America. High & Dryhis writer-photographer collaboration with Christopher Langley – which was an exhibition at MOAH Lancaster in 2018 – is regularly syndicated on KCET’s Artbound. A native Chicagoan, Osceola is half Danish, half Bulgarian, and half Canadian. He holds as a BA from Duke University and an MFA from New York University’s Graduate Film Program. He lives and works on Chung King Road in Los AngelesChinatown.

Chelsea Dean’s mixed media work embodies her attraction to systems that erode. She salvages history, suspending the architecture of Southern California in time with a process of carefully controlled chaos. By combining her photographs with experimental printmaking, drawing, collage,and found objects, she elevates the conflict between order and entropy.  

 Dean’s most recent body of work focuses around her fascination with abandoned homesteads in Wonder Valley where she continues to meditate upon the allure of beauty and decay. She gathers and incorporates discarded elements from these spaces, assigning new meaning with the addition of gold elements and embellished patterns. Memorializing architectural histories, Dean emphasizes sites in transition to re-contextualize and illuminate their inherent value. Dean was born and raised in Arizona and has a BA in Studio Art from the University of Puget Sound, and an MFA in Drawing from Claremont Graduate University. She has a studio in Lincoln Heights.

The exhibition will also feature one mixed-media collaborative piece, Paradox California.  The artists selected a photograph from Refetoff’s Framing the Desert series. Dean says, “My first move was to cut out and remove all the negative shapes within the image using an x-acto knife. After experimenting with a variety of backgrounds, we both fell in love with the ethereal qualities of a turquoise etching that I created back in 2011. Once we had our photograph and background solidified, I cut and layered metallic foil on top of all the shapes where wallpaper was peeling off within the image, creating the effect that it was somehow revealing the gold, ornate material that was hiding underneath. To add more physical depth and shadows to the piece, I raised the cut photograph on foam core while also adhering several cut elements onto the background. The end result is a piece that highlights both of our styles and mediums.” 

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