Mark Robert Lewis | Recent Paintings | Recent Works on Paper | Recent Writing | CV

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 60"x96" Overall | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | Detail | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 48"x60" | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x36" | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x36" | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x30" | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x30" | 2016

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 48"x60" | 2015

Untitled Detail | Acrylic on Canvas | 48"x60" | 2015

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 36"x48" | 2015

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 36"x48" | 2015

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x40" | 2015

Untitled Detail | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x40" | 2015

Untitled | Acrylic on Canvas | 24"x30" | 2015

 

 

All Works on Paper listed below
Acrylic on Paper | 10.25"x14.25" | 2016

 

 

Lost and Found

 

A popular read of Robert Rauschenberg’s Combine Paintings suggests that the surfaces of his canvases were a staging ground for a variety of two and three-dimensional objects that “combined” to create a work of art.  These works were hybrids developed between traditional notions of painting and the everyday world from which they were born.  Rauschenberg plucked and pulled images and sometimes objects from newspapers, magazines, books, textiles, and a variety of everyday three-dimensional objects.  These paintings are a bi-product of Rauschenberg’s participation in the cultural production of his time.  They are works that show what his mind, as a painter, was literally harvesting during his epoch.  As the rural combine harvester rolls over the fields of the American plains reaping, threshing, and winnowing grain crops, Rauschenberg extracted the grains of American cultural production and spread out his trappings upon his canvas.  His works deliberately devour and rearticulate objects and images of popular culture, a process of consumption that recombines those elements of the everyday into the less familiar languages of Painting and Abstraction.  This process of consumption and production has clearly carried over and into this generation of artists, and yet the complicated fabric of contemporary life has given us some uniquely odd and distinct concerns to deal with.

 

For today’s generation of artists the metaphor of the combine harvester still holds true.  They, along with the general population, have at their disposal an endless mass of references and information that they can access through streaming television, the Internet, smart phones, iPads or any sort of device that allows contact with the information and media of what amounts to a kind of modernized collective consciousness.  The reservoir of digitized information that we access to through various media devices is very much like a cultural thesaurus through which artists today may comb and pick.  Whether it is with their laptops, smart phones, or tablets, this generation has quick access to a universe of ideas, images and information in discretely designed packages for their perusal.  Why look up something, source something, scan it or photograph it, listen to something, or directly experience it when you can Google it and download it.  Shepard Fairey is familiar with this process as evidenced by the legal tangle he got himself into with the Associated Press.

 

What has changed for today’s consumers and artists is the proximity and intimacy of the experience.  Consumption is now a two way street where in as much as you can retrieve information, you are also somewhat responsible for depositing it as well.  Facebook perhaps serves as the clearest example of this process.  To obtain information about other members, subscribers place their information, images, links, and any number of other things relating to themselves into a
pre-organized digital space that cross pollinates, distributes, and retrieves comments, likes, counter-thoughts and, in a nutshell, recognition from other members of the collective.  Each member is given a news feed of information outlining the daily inputs of their Facebook friends.  Members can have up to 5000 friends, though a fraction of that number generates more dialog than most people can find time to process.  This dialog is a complicated feat of organization that must appeal to the common sense of users if it is at all to be successful.  Facebook succeeds at taking a rather complicated mess of social interaction and organizes it into intuitive streams of information for users to quickly and conveniently absorb.

 

There is an enormous amount of thought and effort that goes into the ease of use and simplicity of Facebook.  In most of our interactions with technology we are constantly provided with pre-designed stencils and forms into which we can place our everyday experiences or needs and retrieve them (or others) with increasing speed, accuracy and convenience.  This kind of “form” can be seen in a simple ATM interface which gives you quick access to your money through designed interfaces that let you intuitively tap through successive screens and decide what to do through a series of pre-organized choices.  This works so well that the process can be relatively easy to duplicate in a foreign county where you are at once unfamiliar with the language, yet intuitively familiar with functional design of the interface.  So well ingrained are the compositions and forms of technological interfaces, that our navigation of them isn’t necessarily predicated upon language.  We work through these experiences with the benefit of a complex abstract visual language honed from years of behavioral modification stemming from our interactions with technology.  It is as if our fingers, at the mercy of an anticipated intuition, are dancers in an oddly choreographed Ballet Mécanique.

 

This “ease of use” in technology is tied directly into the aims of Capital to provide us with our desires in a quick, timely, and efficient manner.  The competition among goods and information providers seems largely to revolve around having consumers avoid the kind of frustration that leads them to click on the “back” button of their browsers.  An entire subculture of thought has developed around the objective that we find information in evermore ergonomic and intuitive ways. Our interactions with technology happen simply and quickly thanks to armies of designers who are carefully building upon a visual language that is logical, intuitive and familiar with the browsing habits of consumers.  We, as participants in the information age, are somewhat unconscious of these systems and the extent to which they have been branded onto our perceptions and understanding of the world around us.  Through years of interaction with the symbolic language of user interfaces, you might say that our current thinking borrows on it to be more effective and concise.

 

User interface design, also known as HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), is an emerging field that has taken on many levels of complexity with explosion of technologies that we interface and interact with.  Within this field there are competing approaches that solve differing sets of problems depending on the information at hand.  Skeuomorphic design is probably the most familiar because Apple uses it in most of its products.  This strategy takes everyday objects and creates digital imitations of those things.  Apple’s digital books mimic the turn of a page when you wipe to the left giving you the strange experience of doing something familiar, but in a way that accommodates the limitations of the new digital format.  Google Search users are practiced at interacting with a design strategy known as Laser focus.  The approach is focused on one objective for the user: type something in and click on search.  With Google there are other options that allow you to modify your search, but all of these other elements are secondary considerations.  A third approach is known in the industry as Minimalism.  This kind of design seems to have come about in an attempt to de-clutter the visual noise of interactive space and make it a lot less confusing.  Map apps all compete to strip down the physical world into simple and “to the point” graphics so that we all know to get to our dental appointments on time.  There are many other types of interface design, Perception-action icon design, Chunking, and Collapse Content to name a few but the successful ones seem to take into account a basic sense of a user’s impatience.  Because of this there are reservoirs of templates and visual patterns for reference in helping to solve recurring problems in interactive space.  These are pre-defined environments of varying geometric complexity all aimed at an ergonomic and happy consumer experience.

 

 

 

 

On the whole, this kind of interaction is primarily defined by a user experience that has been anticipated in advance and has carefully considered the perceptions and responses of a person’s interaction with an object or space to acquire information.  This is perhaps why it is so easy for our individual behaviors, in regards to the manipulation of real world objects and space, to be modified by technological interfacing.  To some degree, interacting with illusionary space of technology is entertaining and highly seductive.  There is a novelty to the transformation of experience into new media, one that begins to alter and change the articulation and expression of the self without our ever knowing it.

 

In the experimental research conducted into the concept of Cryptomnesia it is held that subjects mistakenly express an idea or thought as their own yet it is culled from a repressed memory of that very idea or experience.  The subject falsely thinks that they are articulating an original idea but they are unknowingly borrowing on the thoughts or ideas generated by others.  The definition I’m working with here comes from Wikipedia and it seems to emphasize  that Cryptomnesia is a kind of plagiarism.  Carl Jung, who drew upon the idea a lot in his writings and research, does not emphasize this notion of plagiarism but rather the creative act of re-articulating through the conscious self, deeper and more abstract ideas that originate from the collective unconscious.  Jung held that Cryptomnesia is a normal function of our brain and that it is a storing, archiving, and retrieval system of memories and information.

 

Perhaps because of the pervasiveness of technology in our lives, it seems clear that Cryptomnesia is a mechanism that has evolved into the production of art.  For better or worse, artists (and everyone for the matter) unconsciously absorb the visual clutter of our daily lives and that information somehow works itself back out into whatever mode of production we adhere to.  It is estimated that the typical city dwelling person takes in an average of 5000 advertisements per day.  Add that into the intellectual handshake of our daily technological interfacing and you’ll discover some rather geometric looking mental artifacts floating around in the collective unconscious soup.

 

Artistic production today, like Rauschenberg’s practice, is often a process of harvesting and sewing but unlike his practice is the influence of this new Design residue articulated through Cryptomnesia.   It is not just a question of bleeding content from contemporary culture and
re-packaging it into art; consideration now needs to be directed toward the forms from which that content is derived.  This packaging has taken up residence within the dialogs of contemporary culture and to some extend define the way we articulate our ideas, thoughts, and art.  The Medium really is the Message.  Siri, the Apple persona on our phones, is now a model of speaking and has begun to unwittingly influence anyone who interacts with it.  You ask questions or make a statement to it and if it doesn’t understand you, you will restate what you have said in a more simple, clear, and universally articulate manner.  Much like she does.  Your interactions with Siri have created a behavior modification that now organizes and influences some of your other interactions with other modes of technology or even the kid behind the counter down at the local Pinkberry.

 

There is a kind of art production that accounts for and articulates the abstract residual trappings of communication in the information age.  As a filter retains the undesired particles of a material that is pushed through it, this work visualizes the remnants of a mode of communication that is directed by effective consumerism.  Exposure to this kind of communication through media, the Internet, user interfaces, smart phones etcetera has, in the both the artist and the general public, produced a barrage of unconscious artifacts that have begun to overlap with the way we interact and communicate with one another.   Some might see this as a corrosive re-formalization of our visual and verbal interactions but, in reality, it is just another discreet chapter in the evolution of communication, art, and language itself.  Given the enormous influence these new ways to communicate have had on the population, it is clear that we are now seeing the emergence of a kind of Art for a generation of people who no longer surf the Internet but rip through in combine harvesters.

 

December 30, 2013

Born 1968. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

 

EDUCATION

 

1996 MFA Program, The California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA.

1993 B.A. Art, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.

 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

 

2006 Young Hollywood, Atelier Cardenas Bellanger, Paris, France.

2004 Pilgrim, Atelier Cardenas Bellanger (FIAC), Paris, France.

2001 Fireworks, London Street Projects, Los Angeles, CA.

1998 Loot, Ubermain Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

 

2015 Idea Machine, Fine Arts Gallery CSULA, Los Angeles, CA.

2014 OS1, Blue Circle Projects, Los Angeles, CA.

2013 Backyard Video Festival, Los Angeles, CA.

2011 Word Is, Fine Arts Gallery CSULA, Los Angeles, CA.

2010 The Page, Guggenheim Gallery, Chapman University, Orange CA.

2007 Route 66, Center for the Arts, Los Angeles, CA.

2004 Please, Please Yourself, Atelier Cardenas, Paris, France.

2004 Four, Miller Block Gallery, Boston, MA.

2003 Allover and at Once, The Pond, Chicago, IL.

2003 Light and Spaced Out, Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris, France.

2003 Light and Spaced Out, Centre d’art Passerelle, Brest, France.

2002 Akihabara TV3, Command N Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.

2001 Untitled, ECC Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

2000 Shimmer, Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

2000 For Example, Acuna Hansen, Los Angeles, CA.

2000 Red, Green & Blue, Artist’s Space, New York, N.Y.

1999 Equinox Now, MOCA, Los Angeles, CA.

1999 Frequent Flyer, Barnsdall Art Park Theater, Los Angeles, CA.

1999 One Night Stand, Farmer’s Daughter, Los Angeles, CA.

1998 Tweeners, Spanish Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA.

1998 Mid Sized Median, Ubermain Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

1997 T’ai Chi for Two, Cordless Exhibitions, Paris, France.

1997 Snowflakes, Rico Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

2006 Chris Sharp, Art Reviews, GoGo Paris, 06-2006

2003 Emilie Renard, "Light & Spaced Out." Art Forum Critic's Pick. 07-22-2003

2003 Frédéric Bonnet, "Made in L.A." Feature for Paris Vogue. 06-01-2003

2002 Markus Karstiess, "Videokunst verliert gegen Electric Town." Review for Blitzreview issue #79. Berlin, Germany. 3-14-2002

2000 Peter Frank, “Pick of the Week,” Review for the L.A.Weekly, Los Angeles, CA. 3-24-2000

2000 Christopher Knight, “Unsteady Glow,” Review for the L.A. Times, L.A., CA. 3-17-2000

2000 Thomas Lawson, “Shimmer,” Catalogue, Los Angeles, CA. 1-19-2002

1999 Michael Fitzpatrick, “One Night Stand,” Review for Reuters, Los Angeles, CA. 2-9-1999

 

LECTURE AND TEACHING POSITIONS

 

2000 to present Art Instructor, Chaffey College, Los Angeles, CA.

2004 Guest Lecturer, École Régionale des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, France.

2002 Art Instructor, Santa Ana College, Santa Ana, CA.

2001 Art Instructor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.

2001 Art Instructor, El Camino College, Los Angeles, CA.

2000 Shimmer Panel Discussion with Thomas Lawson, Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

1996 Art Instructor, Amory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA.