Dennis John Ashbaugh (born 1946 in Red Oak, Iowa) is an internationally acclaimed American painter and artist who lives and works in New York City.
He was the first artist to employ DNA marking patterns in paintings, in his 1992 work Designer Gene. Ashbaugh’s use of light and color in his large scale paintings of autoradiographs have drawn comparison to Mark Rothko.
He is the longtime companion of author Alexandra Penney and has been characterized by the New York Times as a “charismatic ex‐surfer whose address book can probably hold its own against that of the most aggressive jet set type”.
Ashbaugh moved with his family to Southern California at the age 6, where he learned to surf and lived next door to the now famous Dana Point [surfer] Mafia. He earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s Degree from the University of California. He moved to New York City in 1969 to take up residence near leading artists and began immediately showing his paintings in galleries throughout the city and internationally.
Upon arriving in New York City, Ashbaugh quickly achieved critical and commercial success. He received a New York Council for the Arts Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) grant in 1975, and prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, in addition to numerous smaller fellowships and grants throughout his forty year career.
Ashbaugh has been featured in hundreds of exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, PS1, The Seattle Museum of Art, The Orange County Museum of Art, La Jolla Museum of Art, and the Americas Society. He has exhibited internationally in London, Paris, Brussels, Tehran, Capri, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and Slovenia.
Most recently, in 2007, Ashbaugh had a 200 page book full scale retrospective at IVAM entitled “Say Goodbye to The Past” ‐ including a monograph and catalog by distinguished art historian Barbara Rose. The National Academy of Sciences mounted a survey of Ashbaugh’s recent paintings in 2006 with a full color catalog by J.D. Talasek.
Ashbaugh is well known for his 1992 collaboration with science fiction and cyberpunk novelist cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, AGRIPPA A BOOK OF THE DEAD. Gibson’s influence, and that of his friend and fellow cyberpunk novelist Bruce Sterling, on Ashbaugh is undeniable. Ashbaugh himself notes, “Their writings had an important impact on me… When I first walked through the chaos of the East Village and thought, ‘Oh what a lovely place this is.’ It changed my notion of urban decay”.
Ashbaugh has continually reinvented himself as contemporary society, and the issues facing it, evolve. Dominant themes of his works are computers, clones, DNA, networks, and viruses (computer and biological) ‐ though he does not use computers to create these works.
Ashbaugh is currently working on a new series of painting titled “Hiding In Plain Sight”, which focus on privacy issues, ubiquitous surveillance, and genetic databases in the context of 21st century art. Ashbaugh has produced a series of prints and drawings and large group of mosquito trap sculptures, which can be seen at www.mosquitoesmustdie.com. He is working on a book of the same title. These sculptures were the subject of a New Yorker article by Patricia Marx in 2011.