Friday, September 21, 2012

Mark Tansey (1949–)

This last Friday, while visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with students, I was reminded of my love for the work of Mark Tansey. In a college art program that frowned upon narrative art, I found an artist that not only told a story, but one that told the story with humor and intelligence. 

Tansey has said “In the late 1970s, what was particularly attractive about pictorial representation was that one faced an opening and extending realm of content rather than dematerialization, endgames, and prolonged swan songs. Difficulties lay in the long established and increasingly critical isolation of subject matter from art practice. Critical discourse and art education had restricted the notion of content to two pockets coalescing around formal and conceptual poles. To speak about subject matter in a picture simply was not done.

My feeling was that there was no longer any justification for these restrictions. Pictures should be able to function across the fullest range of content. The conceptual should be able to mingle with the formal and subject matter should enjoy intimate relations with both.” 

Currently on display in the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Enunciation is a double portrait of Duchamp. He is sitting in the foreground and is in the other train as Rrose Sélavy, a pseudonym he created in a series of photographs taken by Man Ray. This is an impossible encounter.

Action Painting II

This, in my mind, is a wonderful example of what others think of artists and how easy it is to paint. In under 8 seconds everyone was able to paint a perfect picture of the shuttle launch. Notice the young girl in the bottom left. Again he is playing with reality. This is an impossibility. One in which I find great delight and humor. Tansey played with reality and realism. He paints art jokes with brilliance and I am grateful for his contribution to art and his influence in my art as well.

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