Curated by Nicole Eisenman
“….the painting’s surfaces are just so unbelievably beautiful, flat, raw and seductive. But it is Mark’s deep political, spiritual and moral feelings that determine the content of his paintings, everything symbolizes something else, you enter into a maze of meaning, which is at times mystical, unsettled and often starkly political.”
Still life imagery, much of it referencing both foreign and familiar curios? treasured artifacts found in the artist’s home? form the point of departure for Mark Turgeon’s recent series of eighty 20” x 16” and two large–scale fresco paintings on view at CUE. Accompanying the paintings is a selection of more than half a dozen soccer jerseys representing different countries. Each are emblazoned with the artist’s own visual and text-based statements, many of which point to specific transgressions that have occurred in the name of national pride. Throughout the works on view, visual elements referring to real world, literary, and mythic events recede and advance out of the picture plane to form an intricate pas de deux between fantasy and reality.
Since the early 1990s, Turgeon has worked with a variety of different materials and techniques, with styles ranging from abstract expressionist portraiture to delicate floral watercolor. After an extended trip to Italy in 1998, he began experimenting with different forms of Fresco. His technique involves applying pure pigment to wall compound laid down on canvas, spraying the surface with water as he works, and then applying more layers of pigment. Fueled by the desire to posit history within a modern context, his processes are steeped in the artisan hand-made traditions of painting, weaving, sign making, carving and plastering.
The broad variety of themes and imagery on view provides a wealth of cues for understanding Turgeon’s paintings. Moreover, the poetic titles of his pictures provide further clues surrounding his critical thinking. For example, a world of appearances is deconstructed layer by layer in The Birds and the Bees with the World on their Knees on a Dollar a Day, 2007. Here, Turgeon juxtaposes imagery taken from a protest poster advocating for peace in Darfur against a similar type of street poster advertising the latest virtual reality war game. In the foreground, a wobbly chessboard is festooned with escalating currencies in place of pieces. On this metaphorical playing field stands a single praying mantis pushing a globe through the center of the galaxy.
Seamlessly oscillating between past and present, Turgeon intricately weaves together a myriad of words and places, objects and images into intricate visual samplers that lyrically reveal his observations and concerns about the current state of world and the human condition.
Mark Turgeon received his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in1987, and has spent most of the past twenty years as an artist rooted in New York City. He has had solo exhibitions at the Knitting Factory, New York, NY, 1988; The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY, 1997 and the Dillon Gallery, New York, NY, 1999. Other group exhibitions include the M.S. Gallery, Hartford, CT; Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate School, Wallingford, CT; Bucheon Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and Allan Stone Gallery, Grand Salon, Jack Tilton Gallery, Postmasters, and Esso Gallery in New York, NY. He has organized and been part of a number of spoken word/performance evenings in places such as CB’s 313 Gallery; Fallen Angels Erotic Cabaret; Bell Café and McGovern’s Bar. In collaboration with Edisa Weeks/Delirious Dance Co., he created two window box performances for Chashama Theatre. He has created sets and props and posters and significant graphics for many of his friends’ theatre companies, and film projects.