Marcus Jansen "Frischer Wind aus Amerika"

ART ROFIL Das Kunst Magazin


Marcus Jansen - DECADE

By Paolo Manazza, Milano, Italy

Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented" said Willem de Kooning in the years when he gave lectures in front of an adoring bourgeois audience, the same people, who had ignored him for years.

What is there to say or write about painting? What could you say to an audience who loved the cote of fame , wealth, and knew nothing about sufferings (wrongs), fatigue and love for the daily quest to solve complete/ finish a painting? Once Kooning gave a brilliant answer to this question "For surely it is talking that has put “Art” into painting. Nothing is positive about art except that it is a word. Right from there to here all art became literary. We are not yet living in a world where everything is self-evident. It is very interesting to notice that a lot of people who want to take the talking out of painting, for instance, do nothing else but talk about it. That is no contradiction, however. The art in it is the forever mute part you can talk about forever." 

Now you can (easily) understand the first two things I felt in front of Marcus Jansen's artworks.The first one is a strong sense of immediate belonging. His (brush)strokes and the color combinations speak (to people like me, who paint before writing) without saying anything. They just reach you and you will perceive them. Like in Basquiat's murals, where the use of the color and the gestures of the brushstrokes are fused in an excellent knowledge of the white spotlight. The second thought that came to my mind in front of Marcus paintings is referred to the action of saying. Well, what to say? 

In Jansen's biography we can aim to find the first reference. 

Discovered and mentored by former Museum Director and historian Jerome A. Donson, (Director of the American Vanguard Exhibitions Europe 1961), who was in charge of traveling exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, (MOMA), New York and responsible for preparing exhibitions for artists like Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.

50's New York school of Pollock and Kooning, that's his link to abstract expressionism. The same we can say about artists, who hung out at Cedar Tavern, a bar-restaurant in Greenwich Village in the Big Apple of these golden years.

Jansen is considered by most of the critics as one of the pioneers of expressive urban landscape. According to Donson Jansen's work reminds to "Ash-Can School". An American art movement of early twentieth century, that put an end to the classicism, starting to paint in total freedom, without being afraid of taking distance from pictorial trends. Ash can School choose real urban scenes of American life in 50's as main subject. 

Painters such as Robert Henri (1865-1929), George Luks (1867-1933), William Glackens (1870-1930) and John Sloan (1871-!951) depicted urban decay, disturbing situations and atmospheres.

Ashcan meaning explains itself the essence of the movement. The reference to this movement is so strong that is like Jansen brings to us the art of that period.

Marcus Jansen defines himself as "an ex soldier and a world traveler since the age of one year old".  Jansen has managed to create iconic works of art  transforming his paintings into critical social commentary in an era of globalization and a growing new order. Jansen explores the human condition often working paradoxes and drawing parallels between historic and contemporary events and references.

Watching Jansen's art we could say that he is deeply influenced by Surrealism.

As de Kooning wrote art became literary, but unfortunately "we are not yet living in a world where everything is self-evident". The task of a painter is to paint. It doesn't exist a language but color, backgrounds and images in order to let a painting speak to us. Jansen's paintings not only speak to us, but even sing to us long stories, with beautiful colors on urban decay. The same happens in "Encounter" (2012), a lunar landscape, where he reexamines metaphor of the eternal through Kubrick and current events.

In "Secret Gardens" the American artist set off his pictorial fury. This painting is a big hallucinogenic icon, on a lime background white mingles with magenta glazes on the lefts side. In a certain sense it reminds me of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" contaminated with twentieth century metaphysics of Giorgio De Chirico. No fear of the balance , no awe of the combinations. In this we can truly recognize the Ash Can School. In the smaller "Art and the machine", made in 2013 with mixed media, he opposes bulldozer on the right to an explosion of colors on the left. In this case the viewer simply enjoys the fullness of Jansen's palette, with light pink put close to light blue and vermillion, ocher and electric blue vibrant brushstroke. Above a large white cream frames the titanic clash between ferrous and chromatic matters. 

For European Marcus Jansen is a very interesting painter, in some ways far from european highly cultured coloristic research, but certainly more spectacular. 

From Robert Henri, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jansen is an american, or better a newyorker, to the marrow. I think he represents, together with british artists Cecily Brown and Peter Doig, the best part of the great contemporary art, that is rising, in terms of criticism, audience  


Instinct, vision and memory in the painting of Marcus Jansen

Alessandro Riva, Milano, Italy

In a famous interview with David Sylvester, Francis Bacon said, "Every day I read the papers and watch television,  and I ask myself, ‘How can I compete with all this horror?’"

Bacon, who had the sense of tragic and transformation in the dramatic sense of the spectacle of daily life in his DNA, had worked out what contemporary society, in an almost apodictic manner, reveals in its every minimum external manifestation: that the very concept of reality tends to progressively wear thin and become blurred, almost to the point of disappearing, covered and submerged by its own exaggerated, theatrical hyper-representation.

Reality – what we live and experience daily in our rapport with other people, our loved ones and the world outside – is actually becoming increasingly harder to separate from its own representation, which, like a sort of phantasmagorical shadow, augmented and made hysterical by our own existence, is constantly being thrown at us, and which, on the other hand, we ourselves assist in creating daily, via those bizarre instruments, the social networks, commonly-used communication tools and the images of ourselves and the world which flow back and forth all over the place on the mirrored surface of every tablet or computer screen that we get our hands on.

In this way the very concept of reality (the “billion-footed beast” as Tom Wolfe would have us say), despite obviously continuing to exist of its own accord – in our sentiments, suffering and emotions, in short in our daily life – slowly ceases to exist though, because it is a symbolic entity, progressively being replaced by a fierce, continuous churning of codes, references, approaches, symbols, and above all images. Like a sort of warped mirror permanently chasing our existence wherever we are, it gradually ends up being ominously replaced by itself, like in a scary, inconsistent game of prestige, going on to create that immense, pandemic, overflowing reality show in which we have ourselves become, like it or not, actors, authors and spectators (the spectacle that “has intermingled with every reality, irradiating it”, as Guy Débord wrote in La Societé du spectacle).

In this way, what for the existentialists was once merely the “tragedy of living” is now itself becoming pure spectacle, or pure chaotic, distorted representation of what we used to call “real”. Like a sort of dream, or strange enchantment that enshrouds our gestures and our thoughts daily, the warped representation of reality nowadays seems to thus accompany our every gesture and every thought, and the artists who best know how to represent this concept of transformed, warped reality, in a metaphorical sense, in a sort of strange, chaotic, bizarre enchantment, in which we are indissolubly and dramatically shrouded, and from which we are unable to awaken, are paradoxically becoming the ones who come closest to giving a faithful representation of reality. They are for the most part the “new bards” of the warped, neurotic, exaggerated reality of advanced contemporary life.

And yet, if we really think about it, this idea of representing reality as an “enchantment” and “the appearance of a dream” is not entirely new. It has roots at least as old as our own civilisation.Nietzsche wrote in his ‘Birth of Tragedy’, “Enchantment is the prerequisite of all dramatic art”. In that context, Nietzsche was talking about early Greek tragedy, where the vision of the drama was “the appearance of dream in everything and for everything” and for this reason was in itself “of epic nature”, and where the spectator was, together with the chorus of Satyrs, living, pulsing representation of “the excited Dionysian mass”, within the tragedy itself, at its centre, in the midst of that “eternal sea, erratic turmoil, a passionate life”, which was the scene of the tragedy in the fullness of its unfolding.

Perhaps, in analysing the Dionysian roots of Greek tragedy, in insisting on the irrational, dark, violent nature of the origins of Western culture, with his extraordinary intellectual and sensorial ability (the same that led him fatally into madness), Nietzsche already foresaw the looming threat of an immense, extraordinary wave of irrationality, violence and tragic decline of every common value in the dramatically advancing century. Nowadays, in the middle of an era that has already exceeded every possible human limit, every rational boundary possible, baiting and narrowly avoiding the Apocalypse so many times with the invention of mass extermination technology never even imagined before now, in a world that has inevitably lost any ethical and emotional equilibrium whatsoever, which has lost or killed any god or religion in which to believe, entrusting the profound ethical choices to an insane science devoid of other concerns beside profit and money, we are paradoxically closer than ever to the idea of indistinctly identifying with the “excited Dionysian mass” that roamed around, unconscious, within the tragedy itself, in the “erratic turmoil” of the “passionate life” that was the scene of the tragedy in the fullness of its unfolding.

Marcus Jansen was, in both geographical and cultural terms, born far, far away from the mountains and valleys in which Greek tragedy was born - in many ways, the cradle of the entire Western civilisation.Born in New York City in 1968, Jansen spent his early years in the Bronx, the roughest, most chaotic black borough of the entire New York urban sprawl. It is there, he will himself say, that very early on he began to see

New York “as a huge canvas, where people were constantly expressing themselves creatively on it”. “My first influence”, he was to say, “was simply New York. The city is a work of art in itself. Everywhere you look you find a combination of graffiti and old architecture. It’s a fantastic mix of human expression.”The deep, pulsating experience of life in the Bronx and more generally of New York city life, therefore (as

constantly happens to millions of kids in every corner of the world’s sprawling suburbs) led him not into rage, frustration and the desire to lash out via the usual anti-social or violent behaviour, but, on the contrary – also assisted by an atypical family, with art in their veins and cultural and human background – created a desire to artistically transform what he saw and experienced in his daily life; it was almost like, from a very early age, identifying the very unfolding of time and human actions – even in their most terrible, dramatic aspects– in an epic, Nowadays the crux of Jansen’s work should probably be pinpointed to his naturally, spontaneously “identifying” the spectacle of reality as an “enchantment” that seems to enshroud both him and the people he met throughout his life from his early youth onwards, if not even as a small child; and as an adult, in his being able to magically turn that enchantment into fantastic, magniloquent artistic metaphor.

We could say that Jansen’s vocation to transform reality, even in its harshest, most dramatic aspects, into something else stems from that first naïve childish – and yet already highly conscious of the terrible, extraordinary metaphoric nature of reality – observation of the world: in a theatre of the world, a theatre of representation not generated by calculation or thought (“I don’t work in a calculated way. What I do is get feelings and ideas. I gather a lot of materials and lay them out, and then I put things together very spontaneously. That, to me, is painting from the spirit rather than from the mind”). To echo Freud, Marcus Jansen’s “first scene” as regards reality can therefore be found in his identifying the world as a huge, limitless theatre of portraying reality, into which you can pour your own evocative and symbolic ability, and in letting himself go, like dreaming with his eyes wide open, to represent, therefore to reinvent the world starting with observation both within and without, which can thus represent it by transforming it: in his being, like the spectator of early Greek tragedy, along within the tragedy itself, amid “the excited Dionysian mass”, in the midst of that “eternal sea of shifting turmoil which was the scene of the tragedy in the fullness of its unfolding, and at the same time outside of it, so as to be able to describe and transform it via a style of painting which is itself – like the very life that he sets out to depict – passionate, chaotic, and pulsating with life and energy, “excited in a Dionysian sense” like the actor-spectators of Greek tragedy. A style of painting that is itself unrepressed energy, emotion, matter and vitality in the raw state. It is chaos and entertainment; it is drama, colour, a churning magma of emotions and senses, sentiments, deep feelings and warmth.

Jansen’s work is both instinct and ancestral memory of his own life experience, without intellectual filters or any kind of prior formal or compositional intentionality. He stated in an interview, “Painting itself inspires me, the process of it does”. As for Bacon, it therefore seems that for him, too, instinct is everything, while rationality and

intellect count for little or nothing. (Describing the process of his work, Bacon told Michael Peppiatt “Something that is desired does not exist, if not from the moment when an unconscious thing onto which desire can be imposed manifests.” Jansen’s work method really seems to share the same approach in his finding inspiration, images and the very scraps to lay on the canvas, even before he has identified the image he wants to work on at that time).But if instinct is everything, the raw material the artist works on is indeed what is offered by the thousand facets of reality and its mysterious, resounding contradictions. So we get the “billion-footed beast”, the banal, crude substance of reality, with its thousands and thousands of tentacles, which stands out in the details of the paintings.

So, you get the crazed frames of thousands of images whizzed up in a giant, fantastic mixer - views of roads, and houses, and roofs, poles, weapons, accidents, stains, rabbits, flying pigs, tubes, buses, stairways, neon lights, spaceships, giant mushrooms, targets, cows, trees, horses, stools, road signs, genetically modified animals, spray

cans, tyres, arrows, washing, bricks, shop signs, petrol pumps, lights, graffiti, smoke and explosions; and in the middle of all this them – us – humans, defenceless protagonists of this dramatic stage show where the human being has unavoidably lost the ability to remain at the centre of the world, to be the only, undisputed protagonist,

bowled over as he is by his own immense construction of madness, irrationality, lies and invading, widespread superstructures which have ended up crushing him, annihilating him, forcing him into subordination and rendering him impotent in the face of his own mad inventions.Is Jansen that man who appears here and there on the canvas, the dazed, only apparently secondary protagonist of the paintings? Or is it us instead – we spectators – staring in astonishment at the crazy landscape that we

ourselves, or those like us, have built around us, stone by stone? The artist states, “You can find me in all the paintings. My work in many ways is autobiographical. It’s about my inner feelings and thoughts. It’s more of a self-The key to interpreting Jansen’s work is all here - in his being able to mix instinctiveness and intellectual precision, imagination and memory, his ability to be visionary and transform reality, and narration and symbolic evocation.

Call it urban expressionism; call it neurotic realism; call it neo-Dada or post-graffiti. The only certainty is that a strong, able artistic attempt, which has its fulcrum in a potent, convulsive, tumultuous pictorial and human energy, has scored a resounding hit on the contemporary art scene.


Strife Journal, War College, UK

The Cartograohy of conflict in the work of Marcus Jansen

By Tom De Freston, London, UK

Marcus Jansen is a cartographer of conflict. A number of his paintings map the impact of war on the urban environment. His current solo show at Lazarides Gallery (London), which comes to an end tomorrow, is his most significant UK show to date. Two large mixed-media works depict coastlines which echo the shape of rifles; the hard-edged perimeter tells us this is a man-made coastline, the border of an urban populous. There are no humans present, only the odd plastic toy elephant. It suggests war as an apocalyptic game. The topography is displayed as if viewed from an aerial descent, making the viewer a sky-bound voyeur and the scene one which defies gravity. Jansen’s work seems to suggest: this is our destination.

One painting explicitly quotes Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ (1830). This was a painting made during the July Revolution in France of 1830. Liberty is personified as a heroic maternal figure, flourishing the flag of the revolution and leading the nation’s citizens in an uprising against the regime of King Charles X.

So what are we to make of Jansen recycling an image with such specific historical and political connotations and rehousing it in a contemporary context? It is important to recognise that Delacroix’s image has become so iconic that it no longer really stands for a particular revolution, but a revolutionary spirit in general. In this sense perhaps we are to read the image as relating to the various uprisings of the last few years, euphemistically called the ‘Arab Spring’. Except that Jansen’s additional iconography – British, American and Scottish flags – negates such a tenuous analysis. The clues come if we dig further. Delacroix’s Liberty leads a throng of people over the barricades. Jansen’s figure is solitary; she emerges from an abstract storm of mud and shit. Here, freedom marches without the support of the people.

Jansen has witnessed and engaged with the events that have unfolded as a consequence of 9/11 as both someone who calls New York ‘home’ and someone who fought in the First Gulf War. Yet his images, particularly this image of Liberty, is not one of blind patriotism; quite the opposite. His painting suggests the folly of war, casting the Anglo-American axis and its adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan as a vain attempt to push the idea of ‘Liberty’ forward without the support or backing of the people.

The message is clear. I think the strongest work in the show, however, is when the paintings are less dogmatically didactic, when the politics informs rather than dictates, or shows rather than tells.

In ‘Homeland Security’ a slate grey sky is the backdrop to an acidic orange architecture reminiscent of US prisoner jumpsuits. A figure lies slumped in the middle of a mud-covered courtyard. Everything about the scene is reminiscent of press images of Guantanamo Bay. The painting is taken beyond illustration by the shaft of blue light which breaks through the sky and the architecture, shining down on the solitary figure. The blue zings against its complimentary orange, creating an eerie filmic quality to the scene. The whole thing feels unreal, or perhaps half real, due to the interplay of the familiarity of the setting and the strangeness of this sci-fi column of light. Jansen’s paintings push us into liminal spaces, into what Freud called the unheimlich, best translated as the ‘unhomely’.

The light on the figure suggests surveillance, as if there is an all-seeing eye looking down on the individual. The architecture might suggest Guantanamo Bay on a literal level, but its fragile state (the walls appear on the verge of collapse) suggest a more indeterminate geography. It takes no great leap to read this image in allegorical terms, as the all-seeing eye of the state looking down on us, the figure as a metaphor for all individuals. This places the image in a wider geopolitical context of issues of state surveillance, which brings Snowden and Wikileaks to mind. Jansen is tapping into an Orwellian spirit, housing the fears of 1984 into the architecture and politics of the present.

Hidden away in the show are a set of works which Jansen suggests mark a new departure. They are a series of landscapes, seven in total, depicting single figures, some human, and some animal. One depicts a cow looking down a hole, another a zebra sinking into the picture plane.

Talking to Jansen it is clear the surfaces are built up first, treated as abstract planes, in which intense colour is laid down (poured, dripped, pulled and dragged) and then over this a layer of fractured black marks, reflecting the way forms open and close as we move through a landscape. There is the sense that the surfaces are made with an expressive abandon, allowing tone and colour to shift and mutate until something seems to happen. Then Jansen starts to find space in the flatness of the abstract planes, and forms and possibilities emerge. The surface of the picture presents him with options for how depth and narrative might be found within. The odd line and motif may be added, something as simple as a red horizon line or concentric circle depicting a target. With a sophisticated simplicity Jansen creates these environments, which act as stages upon which he can direct action. By the very nature of these spaces they exist on the slippery juncture between abstraction and figuration, flicking between the twofold spatial modes of painting: the reality of its depth and the inescapable illusion of depth.

Jansen’s figurative additions are collaged extracts, cut and spliced from a multiplicity of sources. He scours magazines, journals and the internet, looking for additions which might fit a certain composition/landscape. Jansen’s particular approach to collage calls to mind figures such as Hannah Hock and Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg’s screen prints are often seen as synonymous with the experience of channel-hopping on a television, flickering between various visual and narrative registers. The disjunctions present in these latest works by Jansen, with the conscious jarring of space and figure, reflects the more modern experience of internet-browsing, flickering between such an array of sources as to feel almost totally lost in a void-like space. Jansen’s aesthetic in these new landscape paintings is a painterly expressionism for the digital age.

‘In Between Rubble’ and ‘Transforming Landscapes’ particularly captured my interest. Both depict small boys isolated in landscapes. They remind me, as so many landscapes of this nature do, of Michael Andrews’ great Thames Estuary paintings. Those are paintings made at the end of an artist’s life, an elegy to the inevitability of life’s transience. Jansen’s images are mirrors of this, nostalgic reflections of lost youth. I write this article whilst on a family holiday in Devon, the county I grew up in. This personal anecdote is relevant because the images remind me of this childhood, in particular wandering with joyful aimlessness through fields, playing games with berries and seeing nature as a giant playground in which the seemingly still time of youth would never end. What Jansen depicts is exactly what Keats alludes to in ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ – that sense of longing for that ‘slow time’.

In ‘In Between Rubble’ a blue child is present, teetering half way up the painting. The figure is a photograph which has been cut and lifted from a magazine. Its appropriation means the original context is lost, so there is a sense of loss in the very mechanics of the way the pictures are made. Every photograph is a signal of a small death, and every splicing from a source is another metaphorical death, which means this child is now present in a half-life fantasy space. The slight twist of the body and the balance between the left and right arms have all the counterpoint mechanics of the Contrapposto of a Classical sculpture, whilst the figure also has a loose informality which only photography can capture. The mix between the two is powerful, creating a sense of a figure in flux, tenderly balanced between one step and the next.

In ‘Transforming Landscapes’ the action is more dynamic, a small boy leaping across a space from left to right. It reminds me of Cartier-Bresson’s iconic image of a silhouetted figure leaping across a puddle. More broadly it reflects Cartier-Bresson’s principles of capturing the ‘Decisive Moment’ of action, the moment of ultimate tension. Photography is mainly analytical, looking to capture and distill events from reality and break them down to these moments. Painting is more synthetic, the construction of decisive moments. Jansen’s trawling of imagery to find figures that provide the action to fit with the stage settings of his landscape is closer to the construction of a play or a poem than a photograph.

Both Jansen’s paintings of children in landscapes fit into a broader history of Romanticism. In particular I am thinking of the solitary figure in the sublime landscape. Jansen deploys the iconographic language of Casper David Friedrich and the painterly handling of a late Turner, the two painting icons of European Romanticism. In Jansen’s new landscapes the children are lost but seem blissfully unaware, happily still playing and loitering, not engaging in the dynamics of the picture which suggest existential angst. The theatrics of such a depiction, in particular the sharp juxtaposition of the child’s innocence against its setting, must surely remind any viewer of contemporary and historical images of children affected by war. In the last year alone we have seen such imagery from Gaza, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to name a few. I am particularly reminded of a set of ‘before and after’ images of Aleppo.

In one of the ‘before’ images a child could be seen playing in the alley of a built-up area. It was busy with people, the scene was rich in colour, and the architecture was full of beautiful decorative additions that gave the scene and the place specificity. In the ‘after’ image, everything was covered in sheets of grey ash, as if the entire scene was shot in black and white. The architecture had been reduced to a generalist rubble that without context just reads as a ubiquitous warzone. The hive of activity was replaced by a desolate scene bar a single child playing in the rubble, leaping point to point. The paradox inherent in this scene is what Jansen depicts in his spaces. The magical feel of his paintings suggests these are nowhere spaces, they are landscapes of loss. For the cartography of conflict is the mapping of loss.


Chaos Magazine

By Lauren Hostetter

Underneath a swelling torrent of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, it would seem that we’ve forgotten the value of anonymity.  In an attempt to fill our 500+ acquaintances in on the gritty and incredibly interesting details of our daily lives, we willingly provide our precise geographic coordinates when trying out a new restaurant and share faux-polaroid glamour shots of questionable artistic merit.  We’ve convinced ourselves that power lies in celebrity, when in fact it lies with a total lack thereof.  The anonymous figure gets to say and do just as he pleases and, so long as he has no name and no distinctive characteristics, avoids any potential backlash with ease.

Anonymity and its consequences, both good and bad, are at the forefront of Anonymous, an exhibit that opened up just last Friday at the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM) in Perm, Russia.  Florida artist Marcus Jansen, who is considered by many to be the 21st century’s response to artists like Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, will be representing the United States with a series of paintings called “Faceless.”

The “Faceless” paintings all depict men in suits and ties, with faces blotted out and smeared to varying degrees, and in one instance removed entirely to reveal the iconic Hollywood sign on the horizon.  Some appear to explode violently, while others are obliterated with the equivalent of a massive thumbprint, but two things remain the same throughout the series: these are all men of power, and we have no idea who they are.  Their power lies partially in their dress, but also in their lack of discernible identity.  Like the British Bankers’ Association and its anonymous committee members, who make major decisions regarding the global economy, their benevolence is much appreciated while it lasts.  But once the proverbial shit hits the fan, they can flee unscathed and unnamed while we stand by pointing fingers in the general direction of the scandal.

In addition to Jansen, 33 other artists from Russia and neighboring areas are represented by over 100 pieces of art.  Among those showing in the exhibition are Oleg Tselkov, Grisha Bruskin, Sergei Shutov, Erbol Meldibekov Richard Vasco, Michal Rovner, and D. Bratza.  Artist Lusine Dzhanyan reenacts in miniature Pussy Riot’s now infamous 2012 performance at Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Church, and photographer Katerina Smirnova creates incognito portraits of strangers as a commentary on the false personae we create when we engage in social networking activities.

More of Marcus Jansen’s work can be found on his website,  For more information on PERMM and its upcoming exhibits, visit (you’ll need to translate if you don’t read Russian!).  Drop us a line if you get a chance to see the exhibit — we’d love to hear your thoughts!


Naples Noteworthy, Naples, Florida

Marcus Jansen  –  One of the most important American painters of our time

To be honest, we find some of Jansen’s art to be unsettling, even disturbing. But that is precisely what makes his art so important. It reflects an urban dystopia that is simultaneously surreal, reflective, puzzling, and perhaps–though hopefully not–prophetic. With a single painting Jansen makes more of a socio-political statement than many political scientists manage to convey in their graduate theses.

Marcus Jansen’s art may not be what you hang in your living room–unless, of course, you have a lot of class. His art doesn’t fade into the wall like so much of what you see today. No, his art draws you in, mesmerizes you, astonishes you, confronts you, possibly offends you. “I don’t like it,” you may hear someone say–usually someone who doesn’t care much for fine art in general, someone who prefers palm trees and sunsets, and a world where Dorothy clicked her heels and found her way home. Good. That’s the beginning of a conversation. Why don’t you like it? “It bothers me. It makes me nervous.”

Perhaps we should be nervous. Because Jansen seems to have knack for bringing to life the landscape of our evolving global consciousness, that strange netherworld of interconnected icons, movements and expressions laced together with the more fragile strands of dreams; he paints the world we see, even if we could not have painted it ourselves.

Haunting imagery such as the appearance of the iconic Mickey Mouse, sometimes only manifesting as partial mangled ears, and the incorporation of the American flag in surprising places leave the viewer to wonder, and the multiple interpretations possible are what make Jansen’s art so interesting and provocative. Naples Noteworthy thought such imagery made a statement on the death of the American dream, on globalization, on the impact of corporations on the urban wasteland, on the loss of innocence in a horrifically evil and darkening world, on the hatred of the world toward America, on the detachment of the entertainment-focused news media from reality, on the encroaching nightmare of end time eschatology on global consciousness that robs us of our childhood dreams. The fact that the same imagery could be interpreted in so many different possible ways is the key to Jansen’s powerful appeal, and is what makes Marcus Jansen one of the most exciting artists alive today.


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Art Fuse

Picture this: Marcus Jansen – The Future is Now

By Oscar Laluyan,  New York, NY

Serendipity happens rarely but when it does, the thrill and indulgence can be paramount. Walking down the gallery row of Orchard Street, AF came upon an opening and it was arresting enough at the front window where a baby doll is caught in a trance in front of a TV set. “You must go inside”, someone yelled and we’re glad to walk in to discover it was the opening for Marcus Jansen and his solo exhibition Future Ground. 

Lauded as having a great museum pedigree with visits from the MoMA and Guggenheim officials scheduled after his opening but the public got first dibs to marvel at his Urban Expressionism. Featuring a very apocalyptic and surveillance heavy state where faceless authorities lay to waste our landscape and leave you questioning about what the future holds. 

The two dimensional works were astounding and most likely endorsed by Rauschenberg touting Jansen as his heir apparent. Marcus Jansen can take it all in stride and know that his hard work finally paid off. It may be a bleak future in his world but his artistic career is assured of a brighter one. The future in art is made now and we were lucky to witness it that night.

Art Fuse

Gallery Walk on L.E.S for Armory Week

By ,  New York, NY

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, 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.”

Art Fuse , NY

‘Marcus Jansen: Future Ground’ Opening Tonight In The L.E.S.

New York – Tuesday, March 4, 2014

By Cojo Art Juggernaut,  New York, NY

As Armory arts week kicks off I generally like to break up the overwhelming big box store art experience by hitting a few “actual” gallery openings and alternate art events as well. Just because the fairs are in town for four days doesn’t mean the bands don’t play on at the year round brick and mortar art exhibition venues.

The first show I wanted to make sure to check out was Marcus JansenFUTURE GROUND.  The  forty-five year old trilingual Fort Meyers, Florida artist was born in the boogie down Bronx to a German Dad and Jamaican Mom.  He was raised in the Bronx,  Queens, and Germany.  Jansen finally returns to his roots with his first ever New York City solo show at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery.

It was only a brisk walk from Spring/Break Art Show (which was having it’s press preview from 2pm – 4pm). I am having my 10Subjects solo show at Castle Fitzjohns in September so the more variations I see of how they layout the space the better.I arrived early for the press preview because I had yet to meet the gallery’s new director Brooke Lynn McGowan. As she was in the middle of last minute show prep we casually chatted about the daunting task of writing about all of the art fairs, and as the conversation got more intense I realized I was preventing her from working. I was introduced to Marcus Jansen and was lead on a brief tour of his work. He is inspired by graffiti as well as the Die Brücke movement and is a pioneer of modern urban expressionism.

His work is powerful and completely unpremeditated, working directly on the canvas relying on instinctive judgement.  Dismal worlds joining strong color with tonal hues.  Trashed landscapes with lone survivors, small realistic figures mingle among Jansen’s recurring symbols of abandoned car tires, boarded-up buildings, wrecked machines, baby dolls, wandering dogs, balloons, and even babies. 

When I asked Jansen which work he would like to pose in front of he chose the “Faceless” series.  The series examines anonymous men of great power who mange to escape blame or punishment for international scandals by literally and violently exiting the mode of portraitur.


Le tele oniriche di Marcus Jansen a Milano

Dal 28 novembre (inaugurazione) al 31 gennaio prossimo, in mostra le sue opere, dove prendono vita detriti industriali, maiali volanti, clown solitari, giocattoli e carrelli del supermercato..

Per capire le sue opere bisogna sapere una cosa della sua vita: ha combattuto nell’esercito americano durante la prima guerra del Golfo. Conflitti, bersagli, una particolare attenzione alla politica nei suoi difetti sono il core del lavoro di Marcus Jansen, artista ormai affermato negli States, scoperto da Jerome A. Donson, già responsabile delle mostre itineranti del MOMA di New York.

Dal 28 novembre (inaugurazione) al 31 gennaio prossimo, in mostra le sue opere, dove prendono vita detriti industriali, maiali volanti, clown solitari, giocattoli e carrelli del supermercato..

Da domani, 28 novembre e fino al 31 gennaio 2014, alla Galleria Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter di Milano, si potrà ammirare la prima personale italiana di questo artista il cui lavoro, come scrivono Alessandra Redaelli e Alessandro Riva, curatori di un catalogo con testo critico, “è un intreccio tra espressionismo, espressionismo astratto, graffiti e pop art”. Si tratta di 20 opere su tela di piccolo e grande formato che presentano non solo l’ultima produzione di Jansen, con alcuni lavori realizzati appositamente per Milano, ma anche opere meno recenti per consentire, appunto, una conoscenza più completa.

Come potete vedere nella gallery qui sotto, e come ricordano Readelli e Riva, “le sue tele sono cariche di un’atmosfera metropolitana surreale, dove il conscio e l’inconscio convivono in paesaggi urbani enigmatici, fatti di fattorie evanescenti, case di reclusione, detriti industriali, abitati da creature oniriche: capre-pneumatici cornute, maiali volanti a forma di bersaglio, corvi appollaiati su fili, clown solitari…. Accanto a queste creature proliferano soli eclissati, giocattoli abbandonati, gomme, recinzioni, carrelli del supermercato, finestre sbarrate…”. Da vedere!

Prima personale italiana dell'artista statunitense considerato da molti come un pioniere della pittura espressionista di paesaggi urbani. Dal 28 novembre fino al 31 gennaio 2014, alla Galleria Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter.

There is something distinctly apocalyptic about Marcus Jansen’s paintings, which characteristically depict interiors that have been opened to the outside, often by way of an absent or partly shattered ceiling, but also by an ambiguous depiction of space itself. The rooms in his pictures are blocked in with slab-like planes of paint, which often seem to dwarf the solitary figure huddled inside. Very often the viewer has the impression that multiple spaces are crowded into one frame, vying for attention while also partly canceling each other out. What holds the compositions together are their strongly rectilinear structures, as well as the artist’s expressionistic paint handling. Through this combination of the familiar and the impossible, Jansen suggests a future in which all of the creature comforts that we take for granted may end up collapsing before our eyes. 

– Dan Cameron, (Founder of Project New Orleans and US Biennial Inc, as well as the Chief Curator of  The Orange County Museum of Art, California.)

For the 2011 edition of the Southern Competition, we’re thrilled to feature the curatorial expertise of Dan Cameron, the founder and director of Prospect New Orleans, a post-Katrina effort that is single-handedly changing the landscape of contemporary art in the Southern United States. As the man behind the largest international biennial of contemporary art in America, Cameron’s experience working with emerging artists dates back several years, and New American Paintingsis proud to exhibit his perspective as this issue’s juror.

The Spotlight feature for #94 focuses on the work of Knoxville, Tennessee’s Jered Sprecher, whose optically charged abstractions have more in common with representational forms than they reveal at first glance. The winner of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Sprecher is an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a wily investigator of commonplace mark-making. Sprecher speaks with us about abstraction, Dollywood, and where you go looking for inspiration in the cornfields of Nebraska.

No conversation about contemporary work in the South would be complete without talking about Miami, and OHWOW’s Lydia Ruby speaks to us about the risk-taking sensibilities of the South Florida art capital, her move from Boston, and her experiences in the art world working with emerging artists.

With American institutions like The Whitney increasingly acquiring work from artists in the South, it’s clear that the region is more vital than ever before, and New American Paintings is excited to be a stalwart site for this growing conversation. Order your copy online! A full list of winners, and preview images, after the jump!

Evan J. Garza, Editor-at-Large