Marlborough is pleased to present Mexican Mammoth, the gallery’s third solo exhibition by Los Angeles artist Mark Hagen with new works in cast acrylic paint, cement, and obsidian.
“This exhibition is a love letter to Mexico and is dedicated to the artists, artisans and factory owners who have helped me make art there over the years. Especially José Noé Suro, who invited me to his ceramic factory in Guadalajara back in 2012. I draw inspiration daily from our exchanges and dialogues. Also to Alfonso Muñoz Cruz, Victor Alfonso Muñoz Rivera, and César Alba Hernández for their indispensable assistance with this new obsidian sculpture, which shares its title with that of the exhibition, named after the fantastic and far-roaming Paleolithic giants that are continually being unearthed throughout Mexico, 271 of them to date." — MH
This exhibition marks the New York debut of Hagen’s new series of monochromatic relief paintings, which have been in development over the past two years. These works—originally inspired by the geometric folded paper experiments of Josef Albers at the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College—start as full-sized, precisely folded paper objects that are then punctuated by catastrophes, that is, violent interruptions of their visual logic with self-affirming crumples and intentional distortions introduced by the artist’s hand, opposing their objectivity.
From these paper originals the artist makes latex molds, inverted forms that are then “painted-in,” layer after layer with colorfully pigmented, inchoate acrylic pastes, which harden into casts of these dimensional structures. The result is the production of self-reflexive objects whose repetitive casting is mirrored in its image of repetitious facets and patterns. The use of molds, in effect, results in the creation of works that are both gestural yet serialized, discreet yet continuous, linear and cyclic, autonomous yet something apart of a totality that is forever “in-potentia.”
Hagen’s use of paint as a casting medium is the sculptural materialization of solid color, unmooring it from canvas and stretcher. Saturated hues of Kelly green, phthalo blue, and cadmium red are formed into ziggurat-like, as well as more quotidian shapes resembling industrial louvers or corrugated metal sheeting. They appear to absorb and flatten the light yet stand out against a long, middle-gray wall (itself a reference to the artist’s previous black and white gradient paintings). Though his colors are mixed intuitively, they never stray far from color wheel fundamentals or out of the tube shades.
In the center of the space, Hagen demonstrates his ongoing investigation of contingent structures, repeated-unit systems, and conceptual architecture by creating a group of lightweight, mortarless cement blocks which are like disarticulated versions of his screen sculptures. Potentially stacked and ordered in a number of ways to create walls, screens, piles, platforms, and arenas in endless variation, in this installation it performs as a pedestal for a new obsidian, or volcanic glass, sculpture, assembled and improvised on site. Obsidian which seems uncommon and precious now, was an everyday, utilitarian material of antiquity, mined and used by early human cultures all over the world. Looking into their inky, amorphous mirrored surfaces one imagines its deep historic use as implements for material survival becoming metonymic stand-ins for death, consumption, and a Dionysian ecstasy.