ESTABLISHED ARTIST: Mark Tansey, American painter


Born in 1949, San Jose, CA
Lives and works in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and New York City

Mark Tansey at Gagosian Gallery/Beverly Hills 2011

As always our approach of art is first and only visual. The visual -what we see- must be explicit, must contain a soul, must mean something beyond the composition, beneath the assemblage of colors.

I can tell that the first time I saw Mark Tansey’s huge paintings it’s been a punch in my stomach! I didn’t even know his name before that exhibition at Gagosian/Beverly Hills in 2011. All around on the walls of the gallery were hanged a couple of gigantic (100 inches large) monochrome blue paintings.

That particular blue -ultramarine- automatically echoed to my French eyes with the Klein blue called IKB. But here instead of offering me a solid monochrome blue painting with which I could dream, Mark Tansey was offering narrative scenes with layers and layers of signs and details with which I had to understand their meaning.

In fact, with Tansey, each single square centimeter means something ; it refers to an idea, an economic theory, a philosophy, anything he read and thought about and he wants to give his version or an answer to it.

Land Fall, 2007 Oil on canvas 85 1/2 x 101 1/2 inches (217.2 x 257.8 cm) courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Even more he can refers at the same time on the same painting to ideas with the narrative and add to it a specific form that refers to an iconic painting.

For example read the explanation of “Mont Ste Victoire” by Art Critic Judy Freeman



Mount Sainte-Victoire” (1987 -CAT.NO.16)

“the soldiers of poststructuralism and deconstruction—Jean Baudrillard (seated second from left), Barthes (recumbent, lighting a cigarette), and Derrida (standing, removing his overcoat)—disrobe in the shadow of Cézanne’s mountain. Shedding their uniforms, they are transformed in their reflections into women. The men on the shore (at left) are flanked by the arching trees of Cézanne’s 1906 Bathers. All appear engulfed in the mucky depths of Plato’s cave. Aided by Derrida’s 1978 book Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, Tansey explores the nature of representation through the study of transformation.” These are…”optimistically suggestive of the possibilities other than those suggested by Greenberg and his cohorts.

For sure the next generation will admire those meaningful paintings even if they don’t understand all the signs because when a conceptual work is so strong it always shows! BCh

Invisible Hand, 2011 Oil on canvas, 83 7/8 x 71 7/8 inches, (213 x 182.6 cm) Photography by the Douglas M. Parker Studio courtesy Gagosian Gallery