Artists and collectors alike often speak of the last great “movement” in art and the next. Perhaps the “movement” we are in the midst of today is the “Commercialism Movement”. No matter what the astronomical price of the week, we can rest assured it has been artificially driven and inflated by the “king makers” ie. the dealers who guarantee auction houses a minimum for contemporary works sold to establish a market value. While this new paradigm sets the monetary value of fine art, the quality of the art is diminishing. The investment angle has become more monumental than the work itself in our pervasive commercial society. Collectors are buying art with the hopes it will increase in value. They're looking to inflate their egos by owning the next best thing even if they don't like it, respect it or understand it. It is no wonder artist are going of the deep end and making works with dung and bodily fluids or desecrating and gifting art. Buying art for too many is no different for some than buying real estate to flip or commodities trading. As an artist there are days when I’d like to erase the word “market” from the English language and as the recently appointed promoter for painter, Truman Marquez, I understand the art market – like it or not.
I came across the Fine Art Adoption website at DC Art News and found the public gifting of art conceived by NY artist, Adam Simon to be a revolutionary concept. It is a site which hosts portfolios of a select network of artists offering works available for adoption. This has brought an experience from last fall to mind when I met artist, Truman Marquez. It was at his sophomore solo show at CAN NY where the paintings exhibited were deconstructed at the opening. The attendees removed segments of the works with artist issued knives and templates exposing works behind the canvas and leaving the works in ruin on the walls. This public gifting art marked a turning point for Marquez also disgusted with the commercialism of the art world. He, like the creators of fine art adoption are just a few of the many artists and collectors who are disgusted with the “Commercialism Movement”.
It was with an authoritative gesture and a sharp blade that Marquez began the performance of his last experimentation with performance art. With irreverent authority he looked away from Call me Horse for Now while cajoling the audience with synthetic exhilaration he made the first decisive and expansive incision. The sound of the canvas tearing resonated like a mortal scream or the first cry of a newborn. Simultaneously the death of the painting surface gave birth to the newly created dissected and deformed works with wall text and secondary imagery. His year’s accomplishment hung mutilated before him as did his psyche when he surrendered control to the audience. This public gifting of art was undoubtedly disturbing for Marquez, exposed and incapacitated, as he and months of his most expressive work lay vulnerable to the desecration before him. The unabashed audience began to remove random pieces of the first canvas and four others with the provided templates and blades. While many coveted the forged segments referencing the masters, Gauguin, Cezanne, deKooning and Pollock, others became more noticeably intrigued by the secondary works beneath the paintings which emerged with each cut. It was not the deletion of imagery but the addition of the windows which became more vital to the performance and the work as sub-messages in the form of wall text, found objects and paintings relevant to each piece were revealed with successive cuts.
The addition of the secondary plain in Context, contrary to the pure evisceration of work in the first performance, ConTemplate - 2006, contributed a new dimension both physically and intellectually. The participants rewarded with possession of each painting-ectomywere duped as it was evident the nothingness left behind possibly had more relevance to the finished piece and henceforth a greater significance. The removed segments became diminished out of context and of meaningless importance, henceforth value.
Marquez surrendered himself through the sacrifice of his work (a metaphor of the physical artist’s body and psyche) as an eager audience with disregard enthusiastically carved with a growing hunger like a feeding frenzy of piranha. A few participants abandoned the templates all together and feverishly carved and threaded sliced strips of the canvas intuitively into slits while the greedy covetously removed multiple segments. In a statement Marquez said, “…the paintings are surrogates for the artist, his person, his thought, his creativity. Offering up the canvases to be cut, the artist, metaphorically speaking, offers himself.” This intense emotional experience marks a psychological purging necessary to more clearly define himself and his impending work – a catharsis.
THE WORK In Severed Voting Fingers Marquez implies a possible conclusion to the Iraq war. The fallen soldier lying dead in the shadows of severed fingers is a metaphor for the ineffectiveness of Western intervention. Furthermore, as a reminder of hopelessness, the crouching Iraqi woman severing her own “voting finger” along with others before her whose severed fingers on the bloody floor cast the shadows, speaks to the fear and uncertainty of democracy and surrender to insurgents. The wall text reveals the number dead and wounded (possibly in vane) while the surface of the painting accentuates dispiritedness of human sacrifice.
Call Me Horse for Now: The artist incorporates the segments of deKooning, Pollack, Gauguin and Matisse before which are being taken by the figures with jousting poles in harlequin garb who surround a horse (representative of Marquez) charging through the center of the painting. The horse, analogous to the artist seeking direction as he charges away from the painterly elements referencing art history.
Kalashnikov Orb: Nail Rain Series: The depiction of Christianity under threat. A praying figure of a monk crouches near a corner in the shadow of an enormous orb with the lifeless body of Christ appearing in the surface of poles attached to its surface. Within the shadow of the orb’s poles is a hidden image of a Kalashnikov rifle referencing the violence of fundamentalist religious fanatics suggesting the doom of Christianity while nails are weightlessly suspended in a space without gravity of a surreal world.
METAMORPHOSIS The works of Marquez are compelling on their own exclusive of the performance incorporating the audience deconstruction. Socio-political and religious references swathed in surreal, optical illusions with an emphasis on an intriguing physical and intellectual perspective form a haunting beauty juxtaposed with disturbing grotesqueness. While the deconstruction aspect is essential for the revelation of the supportive work beneath, one might view the performance reprehensible as the unscathed work is significantly compelling on its own. Furthermore, the egregious desecration before preliminary consideration of the imagery is disturbing. Concealed imagery and the consequent artist intent is too easily misunderstood and then in a fleeting moment the ephemeral paintings are gone.
The performances were initiated as a psychological experiment to strip the artist of his control rendering him defenseless and exposed to reach a better understanding of self and artistic direction while perpetuating the public gifting of art and making an important commentary on the "Commercialism Movement". Normally paintings and artists are venerated, untouchable and guarded against mutilation but like a self-inflicted torture, Marquez watched while participants took control allowing himself to become completely exorcised to ultimately reach a catharsis. Marquez’ temporary psychosis spawned by “Contemplate” and “Context” marks a departure as he is resurrected to redefine Truman Marquez.