The Art of Frank Dorrey
Dorrey’s art is a digital soup of grotesquery, collage, humor and psychedelia. In his work, everything is askew, either in the process of forming or slipping away into a puddle of neon colors. These works are gregarious, glitched-out scenes that dose the viewer with a heavy hit of joy.
A mix of digital illustration and photo collage are often done in bed while YouTube videos play in the background. Dorrey’s work upends all expectation and definition. He only pursues an idea if he can’t resist the impulse to begin, leading to explosive images that can hardly be contained inside the two dimensional surface. It’s this sense of urgency that makes the images so compelling, endlessly drawing eyes to the work.
Dorrey spends hours at a time creating a single piece. Somewhere inside them lurks a secret visual language that has developed over the years, a kind of personal mythology that links colors and imagery into a mode of acid-bathed storytelling.
The sheer freedom of his imagination is immediately recognizable and fascinating, giving rise to an aesthetic entirely Dorrey’s own. The oversaturated colors and digital distortions are concrete characteristics, but the dramatic shifts in subject matter and emotional tones keep us from ever feeling like we completely understand the artist.
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The Artist’s Process
Part of the overall playfulness on display comes from Dorrey’s process. Using an iPhone 8s and the PicsArt app, the artist does not appear to struggle. Instead, he explores compelling visual developments in his collage — in a word, he plays.
As he tweaks and adjusts, new opportunities make themselves known. The result is work that intuitively makes sense, but it resists standard conceptual framing. One has to deal with these images the way one might go over an intense dream from the night before.
The limber and highly portable process also allows the artist to seize inspiration the moment it strikes, giving him uncanny access to his own subconscious. Dorrey seems to have honed this sensitivity to the mysterious spark of creation. This immediate transfer from inspiration to conception to finished product moves so fast that it avoids belaboring and doubt. Each piece is an unfiltered view into a mind on fire with creative energy, born out of preternatural confidence and an artistic swagger that trusts itself to find its way to the end.
That is not to say there is any lack of technique, precision or intention. What is perhaps most stunning about these works is the way that they appear so very exact. These seem to be emanations directly beamed from the visionary eye of the artist. These works are liberated from stultifying formality, and still they manage to stick the landing every time.
The World According to Frank Dorrey
In an artwork by Dorrey, all of the elements interact and heighten each other, creating scenes and tableaus that do what the best religious iconography does: reveal a hidden truth about the world while depicting it. Because the works are photo collages, they contain incredibly literal images of the world. But Dorrey’s method brings out something underneath, something that was always there linking these disparate faces and settings, something that we can glimpse once it has all been processed through the artist’s hand.
Dorrey seems ravenous for images, particularly of human faces which appear in almost all his work. While they are skewed and manipulated into strange new forms, the recognition of a face is never broken. He leaves us just enough so that we can relate and empathize with the characters. While the overall scenes can be bizarre, there is always a human connection to them. When all of this is pulled together, Dorrey accomplishes something very few artists manage to do reliably. His work is fun. It’s a concept rarely pursued by those looking to make a name for themselves in the art world, as if the feeling of fun and humor were somehow lower than dread and angst and other “serious” ways of looking at the world.
Dorrey throws this pretension out the window.
Looking through his work, one cannot help but smile and even laugh out loud. The artist finds the most outlandish, irreverent sides of his images, at times pushing them to the absolute limits of absurdity. It is at this absolute limit that Dorrey’s art finds itself at home.