New York artist Ruth Marten is known for her masterful drawings made on antique prints. In them, she explores the history of representation and notions of perception, invention and veracity. Her witty interventions into found, archaic images are unexpected, delightful and occasionally phantasmagorical. This exhibition consists of dozens of her intricate drawings and new sculptural work.
For several hundred years, printmaking was the only means for the mass dissemination of images. Those depictions of distant lands or people, exotic creatures or scientific information were the basis of everyone’s world-view. The catch? Usually the artist had never seen the place or thing they represented. Printmakers illustrated from text, loose sketch, or tale. Like the children’s game “telephone,” every instance of mediation lead to eccentricity, exaggeration and error.
Marten adds her own layers of peculiarity to these dubious portrayals—and in spades. Her talent lies in the fact that her prowess makes it nearly impossible to determine where the archival material leaves off and her imaginings begin.
In this exhibition, Marten adds sculpture to her repertoire. From found components, she assembles nearly believable fictions. Like her works on paper, her three-dimensional works suggest veracity. As if these objects might have an anachronistic meaning or purpose. Or hold an obscure truth. What, she compels us to ask, is genuine? What is fabrication? How do we determine the difference between artifact and artifice?
Marten received a degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is a notorious underground tattoo artist and an acclaimed illustrator. Her artworks have been exhibited and collected widely. This is her first solo New York Gallery show in nine years.