Dennis Lee Mitchell: Smoke Drawings

Jan 15, 2021 - Feb 27, 2021


Dennis Lee Mitchell captures elusive and ephemeral smoke on paper in his unconventional drawings. He applies acetylene torches directly to the surface of archival paper, creating rich brown-blacks and faint gradations left by moving smoke. The finished works require multiple preparatory drawings, as Mitchell attempts to chart the course of airborne solid and liquid particles. The resulting imagery evokes natural forms such as landscapes and plants, yet remains captivatingly abstract.
Mitchell holds an MFA in Ceramics from Arizona State University, and both an MA and a BA in Ceramics from Fort Hays Kansas State University. Mitchell is an emeritus Professor of Art at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. His work is held in public and private collections internationally, including the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City; the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; the Illinois State Art Museum, Chicago; the Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin. Mitchell exhibits his work in art fiars and galleries nationally such as Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, MD, Zolla Leiberman Gallery, Chicago, IL and William Havu Gallery, Denver, CO.
"The smoke drawings are means of fixing in place some of the most fleeting of perceptual instances. Whether the eye is drawn inward, as in Mitchell's floral or nebular images, or outward towards the suggestion of the horizon in his landscapes or veils, their uncanny delicacy of form is central to their eloquence. The graceful gestures forming these works visually exciting in a manner that also calls to mind the subtly apparitional aspect of flames in a fireplace, or even the sinister beauty of smoke curling upward from a lit cigarette. Mitchell's smoke operates at the margins of materiality; it is a recorded trace of movement without any of the preserved force or velocity usually visible in a drawn line or smear of paint. These drawings are a kind of armature of the ephemeral, and what's barely present in them as material is indelible in its firing of the imagination."
- excerpt from where there's smoke, by Buzz Spector, 2019