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Roberta Smith The New York Times 11th January 1991
Jeffrey Dennis is a young English painter whose eccentric
realist style mixes the pleasures of paint and the
omnipotence of nature with the harsh realities of
working-class life. His relatively small, densely-packed
canvases, with their abrupt shifts in scale and imagery
and their nonsensical narratives, have an Alice in
Wonderland quality: you never know what might pop up next.
But the sense of life filtering through the artist's
earnest, hard-won renderings is more John Steinbeck or
Budd Schulberg than Lewis Carroll.
one of the largest paintings in Mr Dennis's exhibition at
Salvatore Ala, consists mainly of green peas painted
several times their normal size. There's a fecund,
claustrophobic obsessiveness to this surface that makes
nature seem almost monstrous, until you realize that
shelled peas occur in such quantity only when they are
being grown and packaged for mass consumption. One has the
sudden sensation of looking at an assembly-line vat that
is the bane of someone's existence. The same goes for the
lima beans of "Pearly Gates" and the platelet-like
tomato-tinged pasta of "Confirmation".
The tiny figures and scenes embedded in Mr Dennis's
strangely patterned surfaces almost always show people at
work or on their way, sweeping, building, hurrying along
sidewalks or crowding onto moving escalators. Burrowing in
and out of these other elements is a third motif: networks
of conduit and pipe that add another twist to the sense of
scale while suggesting a vast infrastructure that is
either being built or coming apart...