Marking the artist’s first exhibition with David Kordansky, Calvin Marcus has brought his own unique brand of deeply personal, witty surrealism to bear in Los Angeles, exhibiting a body of mixed-media paintings, drawing, fabric work and readymade sculptures that incorporate a subtle blend of humor into the artist’s carefully designed and shifting craft.
Dotting the entrance to his exhibition, the artist has hung a series of printed, patterned shirts, covered with stylized martini glasses (complete with olives). Marcus’s shirts, specially designed and made by the artist himself, incorporate textile craft and fashion into what initially appears as a rote readymade piece. Measuring, printing, cutting and stitching the shirts himself, the artist wears his own work for a period of time, ultimately hanging them in the gallery after taking them to the cleaners, still bearing the receipts and signage from the varying shops he used. It’s a wry turn on the work of the 1960’s conceptualists, exploring the gradual alienation of Marcus’s labor from the final product, yet twisted through a distinct fusion of commodity forms and service industry signifiers.
It’s an interesting interrogation of these same conceptual exercises, twisting the language of labor through the pervasive identity politics of a post-digital landscape. Marcus’s work in this format is production through persona, transposing his everyday movements through the landscape of the city into objects that reflect a certain mode of his own representation in the world.
Calvin Marcus, Malvin Carcus (Installation View), via Art Observed
Countering this work is a series of new paintings, combining multiple mental landscapes and vivid figurative inflections, swirling across his white canvas in a stark contrast that pulls from a varying series of landscapes calling to mind the surrealist work of famed illustrator Ralph Steadman twisted through a subconscious series of free associations. The works swirl and twist through their varying series and arrangements of images, allowing charged, narrative iconographies to blur and change as they move across the canvas. At the core is a constant sense of subversion, inserting comic twists into his images as a way to resist or deconstruct a cohesive piece. In one, an aerial dogfight is broken up by a cartoonish drawing of a fish in the corner of the work, interrupting the dramatic scene in the most pathetic of manners.
This sense of artistic identity, of the act of creating work, and its implications for both the artist and the work, sits at the core of Marcus’s work, and makes his exhibition all the more compelling for its varied forms and figures. Spread across these selections of work are a notion of the artistic hand, and its tendency towards self-reflection, and even a sense of self-parody, that lend the work a conceptual punch, and a refreshing sense of humor.
— D. Creahan
Calvin Marcus at David Kordansky [Exhibition Site]