Castle Fitzjohns Gallery is pleased to announce the first New York solo exhibition for modern ‘urban expressionist’ Marcus Jansen, entitled Marcus Jansen: Future Ground.


Marcus Jansen (b. 1968, New York) produces violently exquisite landscapes, haunting combines, and disturbing portraiture, whose originality and powerful social critique rival the aesthetic mastery and intellectual engagement of the greatest artists of the 20th century. “Abandoned car tires, boarded-up buildings, wrecked machines, baby dolls, wandering dogs, balloons and even babies”, Donald Miller notes for an upcoming catalogue on Jansen’s oeuvre, mark the teeming visual vocabulary of an artist whose work evokes constant allusion to Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Francis Bacon, among others.


Composing monumental canvases, which challenge both the history and future of landscape as a genre and mode of thinking, Jansen manifests an intriguing visual mixology (see Art Album below), exploring the relationship between chaos and form, order and disorder. His tableaux make reference not only to the 1970s Graffiti Movement which defined his youth in New York, but also the Die Brüke tradition of German Expressionism, reflecting Marcus’ young adulthood spend in that country. From a bifurcated cultural education arises a bicultural visual practice, in a style now coined ‘urban expressionism’, by Jerome Donson, in an exhibition catalogue of the same name. The MOMA curator whom had organized exhibitions on the American Vanguard with luminaries such as Rauschenberg, De Kooning, Johns, Kline and others, offered his opinion that Jansen’s practice constitutes nothing less than a new avant garde:


"I told him I believed he was the originator of a new movement and that I believed there will be many followers in this new style. But there will only be one Marcus Jansen."


He continues emphatically,


"Marcus is the innovator of Modern Expressionism. What initiated it for him was the graffiti on the sides of subway trains, when he traveled from the Bronx to Manhattan to sell his work on the street. This is somewhat reminiscent of Pollock learning to kneel with the Hopi Indians and throw sand to make sand pictures. That innovation may have been the beginning of Abstract Expressionism."[ii]


Yet, if Pollock was the beginning, Jansen’s work constitutes a future of and a response to this tradition in both the style of his commanding, raw, and violent brushwork and in his spontaneous approach to the canvas. Jansen, like Rosenquist or Rauschenberg before him, marries the concerns of popular culture with those of painterly composition, marking a deep concern with cultural and political effects on singular and collective subconscious.


Engagement is important to Jansen. Jansen continues to remind us that progress has a price,”[iii] states artist Cindy Jane. Portraying the desolation of seemingly forgotten cities, desolate pastures, sharp recesses, bright overpasses, abandoned vehicles, and opaque window panes: the painter’s work results in an intimate interaction between painting and viewer. Yet the expressive quality of Jansen’s landscapes is not only urban, but also addresses alternative understandings of the aesthetics of a world at war—both internally and externally. The painter states, speaking of the direct relation of his work to his experience as a combat solider:


It […] recalled a personal experience of mine back in 1991 during my Gulf War tour when I flew over the frontline combat area by chopper, and was able to see the devastation that was done by US forces.”[iv]


This socio—or even geo—political bend to the artist’s response to contemporary culture can equally be observed in Jansen’s figural works—from images of ambiguous, nearly haloed, orange figures based on airport security scanners to his Faceless series, which as Miller notes, examine “anonymous men of great power who manage to escape blame or punishment for the international scandals by literally and violently exiting the mode of portraiture.” Perhaps at once the most unsettling and most compelling of Jansen’s work to be revealed in the upcoming exhibition includes his installation Resistance, a floor mounted combine presenting the image of an infant sat before a television or monitor, with the tumor-like protrusion of an electrical plug emerging from his skull; the figure is sat on a stained, red-and-white striped support making critical reference to the American Flag.


Evoking questions of landscape and power, figure and ground, utopia and the unforetold disasters of the modern world, Jansen’s work for his first New York solo show, Marcus Jansen: Future Ground at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery engages an original style marked by instinctive use of color and form: aesthetic answers and unsettling investigations of the most critical questions of our time.


*A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition*


[i] Cindy Jane, “Shadows of our 21st Century Experience” in Marcus Jansen: Malerei/Paintings.[ii] Jerome Donson. “Foreword” in Marcus Jansen: Modern Urban Expressionism. Paris: American Art Gallery, 2006. Exhibit 101, 2011.[iii] Cindy Jane, “Shadows of our 21st Century Experience” in Marcus Jansen: Malerei/Paintings. [iv] Artists Statement in Marcus Jansen: New Work. New York: Artists Rights Society, 2011.


Opening March 4, 2014

The streets are now filled with the crumbling infrastructure of a previous generation. Isolated figures walk in the aftermath without refuge from the surveillance of new world technology […] in a wasteland rich with metaphorical allegory.                                                             Cindy Jane[i]