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Mark Tansey

November 6–December 18, 2004
West 24th Street, New York

Mark Tansey, Wake, 2003 Oil on canvas, 85 ½ × 96 inches (217.2 × 243.8 cm)

Mark Tansey, Wake, 2003

Oil on canvas, 85 ½ × 96 inches (217.2 × 243.8 cm)

Mark Tansey, Duet, 2004 Oil on canvas, 84 × 84 inches (213.4 × 213.4 cm)

Mark Tansey, Duet, 2004

Oil on canvas, 84 × 84 inches (213.4 × 213.4 cm)

Mark Tansey, Snowman, 2004 Oil on canvas, 64 × 72 ½ inches (162.6 × 184.2 cm)

Mark Tansey, Snowman, 2004

Oil on canvas, 64 × 72 ½ inches (162.6 × 184.2 cm)

Mark Tansey, Sea Change, 2005 Oil on canvas, 84 × 60 inches (213.4 × 152.4 cm)

Mark Tansey, Sea Change, 2005

Oil on canvas, 84 × 60 inches (213.4 × 152.4 cm)

About

Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Mark Tansey. This much-anticipated show is his first major exhibition in New York since 1997.

This is the first time that the artist has painted in ultramarine blue, a color featured in all of the canvases on display. Large-scale and monochromatic, the paintings at first glance are reminiscent of snapshots of landscapes.

Upon closer examination, however, hidden imagery appears in unexpected places. The snowball in Snowman (2004) doubles as Karl Marx’s head, turned on its side; philosophers’ portraits, from Socrates to Ludwig Wittgenstein, emerge from the mountainside in West Face (2004); an anamorphic portrait of James Joyce is contained within the wake of a speeding boat in Wake (2003). In such paintings, figures and landscape are interchangeable as images merge and recede, only to reappear again. Contrary to Frank Stella’s famous statement “What you see is what you see,” in Tansey’s work, what you see is not necessarily what you see.

The dense imagery that permeates Tansey’s canvases can be sourced to a trove of visual material that the artist has collected over the years. This includes his own photographs, as well as clippings from magazines, journals, and newspapers. Tansey begins his creative process by stretching, rotating, or cropping forms, combining images and photocopying them over and over again until he produces a collage that can serve as preliminary study for his paintings.

Tansey’s work typifies the complexity of our age, when certainty seems more elusive than ever. In his paintings, it is difficult to determine whether east is west, up is down, left is right, or good is evil. The literal is the figurative, and the figurative is literal. Tansey embraces this ambiguity and invites the viewer to participate in a visual and metaphorical adventure.

A fully illustrated catalogue featuring an essay by Roland Mönig will accompany the exhibition.