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 Mark Tansey  (1949 - )

/ TAN-zee/
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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: post-surreal often droll genre

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Mark Tansey
from Auction House Records.
On Photography (Homage to Susan Sontag)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted August 2005, is from Peter Falk, Art Historian and friend of the artist.

In the world of living artists, fame can be fleeting, skillfully pumped up by promotional hyperboles of major art galleries. Mark Tansey, however, is a rarity among contemporary artists. Several books have been written about his extraordinary approach to making art, and some of the world's major art museums have given him solo exhibitions. One of his major paintings is on permanent display in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many other major museums worldwide own his works.

Clearly, Tansey has achieved lasting recognition, placing him in the pantheon of true contemporary masters. Imagine a painter expressing the views of an art historian and a social commentator. The result is a unique surrealist, post-modernist painter plumbing the intellectual depths of art, social, literary, and scientific history. Using photographic images from popular culture, academia, and art history, he dislocates and recombines their apparent reality into new, expressive contexts of his own that comment on humanity, their foibles, aspirations and often futile endeavors.

Tansey's essentially large paintings are monochromatic, whether brown, blue, green, etc, exploring an illustrational use of tonal variations rather than more painterly values like substance of form and design. He seems bent on proving, by means of his invented, apparently realistic scenarios, that representation of reality itself may be ambiguous and problematic, not something that can be depended on.

Tansey, now living in New York, received his BFA degree from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California in 1969. He also studied at the Harvard Summer Session Institute of Arts, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1974, followed by graduate studies in painting at Hunter College in New York City, receiving an MFA degree in 1978.

Tansey's acute awareness of art history comes from two parents who are art historians. His father, Richard G. Tansey, was one of the editors who revised the 5th through 10th editions of Gardner's Art Through the Ages, the ubiquitous college art history textbook first published by Helen Gardner in 1926. His mother, Luraine Tansey, is the pioneering Visual Resources Librarian at the University of California who developed the Universal Slide Classification System. Thus, their son grew up in an intellectual environment that prompted Warhol Museum director, Thomas Sokolowski, to comment that the artist was "destined to absorb art history in the same way that Michelangelo - who suckled marble dust from his wet nurse, who was a stonemason's wife - was destined to sculpt." [ArtNews, Summer vol., 1994]
Tansey's works are well-represented at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Their curator describes his style and approach to making art:
Mark Tansey uses irony and surreal combinations of places and historical figures to make uncanny but coherent connections between ideas and events. The canvases are based on photocopied images and figures culled from the artist's library of popular, academic, and art-historical sources. Tansey mixes and matches this appropriated imagery, using a calculated system of opposition, reversal, and contradiction to create his seemingly realistic historical scenarios. However, the artist's pictorial realities are intended less as literal truths than as metaphor.

Both matter-of-fact and abstruse, Tansey's monochromatic paintings resemble documentary photographs even though they depict wholly impossible situations. His tightly representational style invites us to believe in his preposterous inventions despite the obvious inconsistencies that beg for explanation.

Ultimately, these paintings are not just an opportunity to discover some hidden, complicated meaning. They are proof that representations, whether realistic or historical, are inherently problematic. Tansey challenges our perceptions of what seems at first recognizable, leaving us with provocative and open-ended questions, not answers.

Finally, when viewing the etchings in the A&K Collection, it is interesting to keep in mind Tansey's own comments about pictorial content:

In the late 1970s, what was particularly attractive about pictorial representation was that one faced an opening and extending realm of content rather than dematerialization, endgames, and prolonged swan songs. Difficulties lay in the long established and increasingly critical isolation of subject matter from art practice. Critical discourse and art education had restricted the notion of content to two pockets coalescing around formal and conceptual poles. To speak about subject matter in a picture simply was not done.

My feeling was that there was no longer any justification for these restrictions. Pictures should be able to function across the fullest range of content. The conceptual should be able to mingle with the formal and subject matter should enjoy intimate relations with both.


Source includes: "Mark Tansey: Visions and Revisions" by Arthur C. Danto

----------------------------------------------------------------------
BOOKS ON MARK TANSEY
Mark Tansey: Visions and Revisions, by Arthur C. Danto
The Picture in Question: Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation, by Mark C. Taylor.
Mark Tansey, by Judi Freeman
Mark Tansey: Art and Source, by Patterson Sims.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1995 "Borders," Galleri Faurschou, Copenhagen, Denmark
1994 "Connections -- Mark Tansey," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1993 "28 Pictures," Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
1993 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1990 "Art and Source," Seattle Art Museum
1987 Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
1986 Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
1985 Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
1995 Group Show, Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
1994 "Mountains of the Mind," Aspen Art Museum, Colorado
"Visions of America: Landscape as Metaphor in the Late Twentieth Century," Denver Art Museum and Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
1993 "Brief Encounters: Meetings in Art," Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, "I am The Enunciator," Thread Waxing Space, New York
1992 "Quotations: The Second History of Art," Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
"Photography Reproduction Production: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Representation," Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, Vermont
"The Word-Image in Contemporary Art," James Howe Gallery, Kean College of New Jersey, Union
1991 "1991 Biennial Exhibition," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1990 "The Charade of Mastery: Deciphering Modernism in Contemporary Art," Whitney Museum of American Art Downtown, New York
"Harmony and Discord: American Landscape Painting Today," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
"Vertigo," Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
"Color and/or Monochrome," National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
1989 "Romance & Irony in Recent American Art," Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth "Image World: Art and Media Culture," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York "10 + 10: Contemporary Soviet & American Painters," Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
1988 "Classical Myth & Imagery in Contemporary Art," Queens Museum, New York
"American Art Today: Narrative Painting," Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami
1987 "Morality Tales: History Painting in the 1980s," Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York
"Documenta 8," Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany
"Contemporary Diptychs: Divided Visions," Whitney Museum of American Art, Stamford,
Connecticut; Whitney Museum of American Art at Equitable Center, New York
"Avant-Garde in the Eighties," Los Angeles County Museum of Art
"Tragic and Timeless Today: Contemporary History Painting," Gallery 400, University of Illinois
1986 "Correspondences: New York Art Now," Tsuromoto Room, Tokyo
"Second Sight: Biennial IV," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
"Figure as Subject: The Last Decade," Whitney Museum of American Art at Equitable Center, New York
"Aperto 86," Corderie at the Arsenal, Venice Biennale, Italy
"The Window in 20th Century Art," Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase;
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
1985 "Figure in 20th-Century American Art," Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Artist Mark Tansey, born in San Jose, California in 1949, can be described as a surrealist, post-modernist painter with ironic subject matter based on a social commentator's point of view. Using photographic images from popular culture, academia and art history, he dislocates and recombines apparent reality into new, expressive contexts of his own that comment on humanity, their foibles, aspirations and often futile endeavors.

Tansey's essentially large paintings are monochromatic, whether brown, blue, green, etc, exploring an illustrational use of tonal variations.

Tansey, now living in New York, received his BFA degree from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California in 1969. He also studied at the Harvard Summer Session Institute of Arts, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1974, followed by graduate studies in painting at Hunter College in New York City, receiving an MFA degree in 1978.

Tansey comes by his intellectuality and art historical awareness naturally. His parents were art historians. His father, Richard G. Tansey, was one of the editors who revised the 5th through 10th editions of "Gardner's Art Through the Ages," the well-known, long-used art history text first published by Helen Gardner in 1926.
Thomas Sokolowski, in the Summer, 1994 volume of ARTnews, referred to the art environment in which Tansey' grew up, stating that the artist was "destined to absorb art history in the same way that Michelangelo -- who suckled marble dust from his wet nurse, who was a stonemason's wife -- was destined to sculpt."

Mark Tansey's painting technique involves the creation of recognizable figurative images by scraping and brushing oil paint into gesso on canvas. In his large 1984 painting, "Triumph of the New York School," 74 x 120, in the Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Tansey apparently juxtaposes New York artists of Post World War II America (Jackson Pollock is recognizable) against earlier French artists supplanted by their fame. The French, on the left, seem garbed in uniforms closer to World War I, some on horseback carrying lances, while the Americans on the right wear uniforms of the 1940s, with a World War II mechanized vehicle as their attribute. A table between them is complete with tablecloth and surrender document.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
1995 "Borders," Galleri Faurschou, Copenhagen, Denmark

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1990 "Art and Source," Seattle Art Museum
1985 Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston

Selected Group Exhibitions
1994 "Mountains of the Mind," Aspen Art Museum, Colorado
"Visions of America: Landscape as Metaphor in the Late Twentieth Century," Denver Art Museum and Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
"Connections -- Mark Tansey," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
"I am The Enunciator," Thread Waxing Space, New York
1992 "Quotations: The Second History of Art," Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
"Photography Reproduction Production: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Representation," Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, Vermont
"The Word-Image in Contemporary Art," James Howe Gallery, Kean College of New Jersey, Union
1991 "1991 Biennial Exhibition," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1990 "The Charade of Mastery: Deciphering Modernism in Contemporary Art," Whitney Museum of American Art Downtown, New York
"Harmony and Discord: American Landscape Painting Today," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
"Vertigo," Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
"Color and/or Monochrome," National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
1989 "Romance & Irony in Recent American Art," Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
"Image World: Art and Media Culture," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
"10 + 10: Contemporary Soviet & American Painters," Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
1988 "Classical Myth & Imagery in Contemporary Art," Queens Museum, New York
"American Art Today: Narrative Painting," Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami
1987 "Morality Tales: History Painting in the 1980s," Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York
"Documenta 8," Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

Sources art archive.com
artcyclopedia.com
nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/exhibits/kscope/biostext.html
broadartfoundation.org/collection/tansey.html
artexperts.com/tansey.htm





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