Arts & Affairs Features

Dean West: The Palms, Vol I Exhibition

Image courtesy of Dean West

Coe + Co Photography Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida will be presenting The Palms: Volume I, a collection of photographs by Dean West. The exhibition is on view from February 16 – March 11.


For over a decade Dean West has created narrative-driven tableaux works, developing a captivating world of his own through deliberately staged imagery. In The Palms, the artist explores aspects of Florida’s culture and daily life, using theatrical images to dramatize the narratives of local characters and landscapes. While West’s surreal, atmospheric photographs perfectly capture moments suspended in time, the characters within these compositions tell a larger story: one that inhabits our own perceptions of time, place and identity.


Included in this exhibition is the final edition of The Wrangler, which has become the most iconic image from The Palms series. In a familiar Floridian narrative, rich greens and warm afternoon light grace the lush, manicured gardens beside the iridescent pool, while in the foreground the American alligator faces off with a boldly positioned Wrangler. Bringing together the choreographed character, provocative narrative and strong use of symmetry and color, this piece perfectly embodies the essence of West’s body of work.


In La Piscina I and The Boys, we find two boys out for a midnight swim as the cerulean blue, mid-century pool lights up the scene with a mesmeric twilight coolness. West’s compelling approach to storytelling is heightened by the introduction of a lone wolf, leaving the viewer in suspense as to how this scene has come to be, and what may happen next.  


In contrast to the rich, narrative works, West also finds drama in the simplicity of form in Cade Silhouette #1 and #2, with figures suspended in time in stark monochrome. Additionally, the South Beach images offer simpler glimpses into everyday life at the beach, which, while less conceptual, still invite the viewer to contemplate the relationships and tensions at play behind these captured moments. 


The artist reflected, “Since the 1990s, the constructed image has been ubiquitous throughout the international art scene with names like Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Creatively staged spectacles that require a magnifying glass over every small detail. Pictures that have us dabbling in the streets of Hollywood rather than Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. What we can ensure you will get from these artificially created worlds, is not just a beautifully crafted print hanging in your designer living room, but a direct link to the artist’s identity: a fingerprint that connects their world to yours. A portal of the soul. Photography lives in a world of truth and deception. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, however, when you stand in front of a picture what you’re experiencing is real and that’s all that matters in that moment. As the great Susan Sontag once wrote, ‘one can’t possess the present, but one can possess the past.’”


West’s award-winning works have been exhibited at important institutions around the world including the Columbus Museum of Art, Faneuil Hall Museum of Boston, the Paris Expo Porte De Versailles, and the Discovery Times Square Museum in New York City. His imagery has been used for international brand partnerships with clients such as Disney, MTV, Bombay Sapphire, St Germain, Corona, Starburst and Fox Sports. West’s unique vision and artistry set him apart as one of the most compelling image makers of his generation.