Until the 8th of August – Rice Art Gallery – Houston
Growing up, Andrea Dezsö was obsessed with space travel. Dezsö explains, “There was always this idea of a possible escape place, and because we did not have passports and could not go anywhere in Communist Romania, travel was only possible in your mind. What captured my imagination was how not being able to go somewhere physically opens the possibility of epic mental Odysseys, and how we can stuff empty space with rich imaginary worlds, then move in.”

For her installation Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly, Dezsö will expand upon a technique she uses to make her distinctive “tunnel books.” Small, handmade books that reveal three-dimensional scenes, tunnel books are created from layers of paper that are individually drawn, cut out, and painted. Each layer is then stacked one in front of another in a collapsible case to create a miniature world with depth and detail that draw in the viewer. At Rice Gallery, Dezsö’s tunnel books will become life-size, with tunnels as wide as six feet. The individual “tunnels” will be placed just behind Rice Gallery’s large front glass wall, creating portals a viewer can peer into but enter only with their imagination. The human scale will be a departure point to another reality. Explains Dezsö, “I want to transport the viewer, as when you pass by a house and look into a window and see a different world from your own.”

Much of Dezsö’s work refers to, as she puts it, a “childhood, which never entirely went away.” An ethnic Hungarian, who grew up in Transylvania, Romania, Dezsö describes most of her childhood memories as “quite sweet,” despite shortages of medicine and food, censorship, and ethnic discrimination. Books were very important to her. She says, “We didn’t have access to contemporary publications so we read the classics. We lived in books. Travelled through them.” After three years of trying to get into the local art college and not being accepted because of ethnic quotas, she emigrated to Hungary in 1989 – a process that took 18 months and countless bribes. At the Hungarian University of
Design in Budapest, she received a BFA and MFA in graphic design, and shortly thereafter in 1997, moved to New York, where she has lived and worked since.

In New York, Dezsö began to reflect on her life in Romania by creating one-of-a-kind books, paper-cuttings, and embroideries to tell open-ended, idiosyncratic narratives involving larger-than-life praying mantises, looming forests, fantastical gardens, factories, sputniks, astronauts, aliens, and people in bunny suits, to name just a few reoccurring characters. Dezsö continues to hone what one writer describes as her “folk toolkit,” preferring the handmade to the computer aided. She has worked recently in stop-motion animation, mosaics, ceramics, as well as traditional Japanese techniques of indigo dyeing and the ancient art of fusuma-e screen painting, becoming the first Westerner in Kamiyama, Japan to ever paint such a screen during a residency there. Her installation at Rice Gallery will be her first site-specific installation.
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