David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce its participation in Frieze London 2018 with a solo presentation of new paintings and sculptures by Calvin Marcus. The paintings feature devilish ceramic heads painted a deep blue and set in relief against matching blue starry backgrounds. The sculptures, meanwhile, resemble models of battleships or tankers enclosed inside rough-hewn modernist cubes. Another type of sculpture takes shape as a working lamp, its base formed from a pile of ceramic fish.
Each of the bodies of work on view represents a new take on themes, concerns, and iconographies that appear consistently in Marcus's exhibitions. These include portraiture, surreal humor, architecture, seriality, juxtapositions of scale, and hands-on material specificity - the artist often brings a sculptor's command and sense of three-dimensional invention to his paintings, for instance. Concerned with the relationship between individual artworks and the broader contexts in which they appear, Marcus often works in series, establishing variations within a strictly delimited formal terrain. He cannot be pinned down as either a conceptual artist or a studio painter; like Californian forebears Jack Goldstein and Ed Ruscha, he employs practices associated with both of these modes, generating images and objects that are highly idiosyncratic even as they exercise broad cultural reach.
The horned heads that are the subjects of the paintings at Frieze exemplify Marcus's approach. Each is turned upside down, accentuating the demonic timbre of its smiling visage while preventing the viewer from connecting fully to the intense emotion expressed there. The stylized night skies that surround the heads conjure an overall sense of hypnotic inwardness, as do their eye- and mouth-openings, which provide visual access to the pitch-black voids of their interior volumes. These gargoyle-like creatures connect the paintings to everything from Boschian visions of the underworld to recent horror movies. Yet they also read as masks, making this a disconcertingly intimate - even personal - group of objects, compositionally linked to a recent series of the artist's own paintings in which green ceramic chickens bearing self-portraits in caricature are affixed to monochromatic green grounds.
Lo-fi precision characterizes all of the works in this presentation. The boat-like forms in the sculptures have been built from egg crates, cardboard, and other studio refuse. Each is painted according to a naval palette and propped up and angled vertically, as if sinking; nearby stands a miniature American flag, as if to salute a monument of historic importance. Like ships in a bottle, these arrangements have been placed inside transparent structures comprised of stacked rectangles that resemble homespun takes on modernist architecture, with wooden frames supporting clear glass walls and working LED lights. The aesthetics of the ordered and the new are used to house objects that read as relics or wayward emblems of faded glory. And yet in both cases Marcus does nothing to hide his forms' matter-of-fact construction or utilitarian presence.
The lamp on view triangulates the other works on several levels. Most notably, it is a fully functional object whose forms send the mind and eye searching for meaning in many directions at once. Like the paintings, it features three-dimensional ceramic renderings of creatures: small fish with the dead stare of those who have become the catch of the day. And like the boat sculptures, it is a clearly handmade affair with nods to West Coast modernist design, the product of both careful craft and a sly, warmly iconoclastic feeling for the rugged symbolism of Americana.
Calvin Marcus (b. 1988, San Francisco, California) was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at The Power Station, Dallas (2017). Other recent solo shows include exhibitions at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); C L E A R I N G, New York (2016); Peephole, Milan (2015); Chin's Push, Los Angeles, (2014); and Public Fiction, Los Angeles (2014). His work has been featured in group exhibitions internationally, including The Trick Brain, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon (2017); Inaugural exhibition, Syz Collection, Banque Syz, Geneva (2017); Fall is Cancelled, Gladstone 64, New York (2017); High Anxiety: New Acquisitions, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2016); Olympia, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris (2016); Tightrope Walk: Painted Images After Abstraction, White Cube, London (2015); Le Musée Imaginaire, Lefebvre & Fils, Paris (2015); and Works on Paper, Greene Naftali, New York (2015). Marcus lives and works in Los Angeles.