Tom Dean’s work eludes categories. He has made paintings, videos and multiples, but is best known for his sculpture. His art plays upon the tensions between ordinary and mythical, with works varying in scale from miniature to monumental, their subject matter ranging from familiar, everyday objects to classical icons. His epic subjects allude to the dream world of the psyche and matters of the soul, but always reside in the intensely material world of desire and the body.
Dean was recognized in 1999 with the honour of being chosen as the Canadian representative at the 1999 Venice Biennale. A catalogue accompanied Dean’s Venice Biennale exhibition.
Tom Dean was born in Markdale, Ontario (1947) and settled in Montréal in the late 1960s, where he studied visual art at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) and became a well-known figure in the city’s alternative scene. He was a founding member of Véhicule Art Inc (and Véhicule Press), a renowned centre of avant-garde activity at the time. From 1972 to 1974 Dean published Beaux Arts magazine with fellow artist Stephen Lack. Over the next decade he produced works in several media, including texts, video, sculpture and prints, and gained a reputation for his elaborate multidisciplinary performances.
In 1976 Tom Dean moved to Toronto and shortly thereafter began his monumental sculpture project, The Floating Staircase (1978-81), whose remains were resurrected in an installation at Mercer Union, Toronto (1983). The various sections of Dean's extended serial sculpture Excerpts from a Description of the Universe (1984-88) were widely exhibited through the latter half of the 1980s, including in Aurora Borealis at the Centre international d'art contemporain, Montréal (1985) and in a solo exhibition at the 49th Parallel Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, New York (1985). In 1988 his work was included in the group exhibition All That Matters, which travelled across the country. From 1986 to 1989 Dean lived in New York, participating in exhibitions there as well as in Canada, including in 1990 an exhibition of his drawings and sculptures at the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre, Queen's University, Kingston (with catalogue).
Throughout the 1990s his artworks have been presented in several important group and solo exhibitions in Canada and Europe. A selection of his works from the early 1980s to the present were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (Tom Dean: Selected Works Past and Present, 1999).
He has been collected by such major institutions as the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Musée des beaux arts de Montréal.