Thursday, November 12, 2009

Self-Portrait as a Building: Mark Manders

[“Living Room Scene With Enlarged Chairs” (2009). Wood, painted epoxy, iron, four enlarged chairs, painted aluminum, brass & rope. “Silenced Drum” (2004-2009). Painted wood, painted iron, painted ceramic, painted epoxy, rubber, carpet, & twine. “Landscape With Colors” (1997-2009). Painted wood, glued sand, painted epoxy, & iron.]

Whether through installation, sculpture, drawing, or projected imagery, the multidisciplinary practice of Dutch artist Mark Manders expands upon his ongoing and unique project of self-portraiture through architecture or a “self-portrait as a building.” In this second solo show by Manders at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery—up through December 19—arrangement of random objects elaborate on his expanding and ongoing conceptual project. Described by the artist as inspired by his initial interest in writing and literature, Manders’ first artistic investigation explores self-utilized language and written word. In defining these innermost perceptions and understandings of his world, Manders appropriates a sculptural form in his investigation of meaning and narrative. Belonging to a generation of post-Minimal sculptors whose work swims in such meaning and narrative, Manders stands with such peers and precursors as Robert Gober, Juan Muñoz, Kiki Smith, and Miroslaw Balka. Yet expressed narrative is far from boundless within this cohort: There is an absorbed skepticism.

Juxtapositions of rough-hewn “clay” sculptures—rendered in epoxy— of household furniture, architectural forms, and other miscellaneous objects provide an avenue for Manders’ poignant and mysterious tableaux in his investigation of a perpetually unrealized whole by scrutinizing philosophies of time, location, and biography. These intricate—though sparing—configurations of unrelated objects challenge preconceptions, transform the spaces they inhabit, and turn the gallery into a landscape in which a psychological sense of otherness is evoked. Manders’ work doesn’t stop here, however: It also evokes absence rather than presence while setting forth a critique of subjectivity and identity.

Rodents, a recurring motif in Manders’ work, have assumed varying degrees of representation in his installations, whether by including actual taxidermied rats or imposition of large, abstract, biomorphic rat-like forms. One finds them in this show in his work “Silenced Drum.” Here two stylized, limp rodent forms are held against the body of a dismembered red drum by a rubber strap. In this combination, various elements—whether animal or man-made—“conspire” to give form and meaning to the sculpture as a whole and reveal their own poetry in arrangement of disparate, everyday objects.

Although absolute silence reigns in his installations, there is palpable life beneath the stillness. This is especially true in "Room with Chair and Factory" with its collision of human, domestic, and architectural considerations. Such collision is visceral in “Large Figure with Book and Fake Dictionaries”—presenting as it does a multiplicity of components in the artist’s use of architectural means to achieve portraiture. In this work there is a disjointed quality and ambiguity in its conveyed identity, time, and place.

Chafing under language’s limitations as a medium Manders moved toward architectural structure in his narrative rather than highlighting specific content. This progression has brought immediacy to Manders’ work by underlining suggested physical and psychological relationships in these constructed worlds. Yet this choice has not erased the his works’ literary richness: These works are obviously informed by a cast of cultural sources including the incomplete legacy of Franz Kafka (1883-1924), the clarity and awareness of George Orwell (1903-1950), and the Minimalist (if sometimes bleak) perspective of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).

Mark Manders—who lives and works in the Netherlands and Belgium—has shown his work at the Aspen Art Museum, Jarla Partilager (Stockholm), the Douglas Hyde Gallery (Dublin), The Carrillo Gil Museum of Art (Mexico City), Kunstverein Hanover, Bergen Kunsthall (Norway), S.M.A.K. Ghent (Belgium), Kunsthaus Zurich, The Hayward Gallery (London), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh).

Mark Manders

Through December 19, 2009

@ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

521 West 21st Street, New York City 10011

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