Photographs by Henny Garfunkel

Photographs by Henny Garfunkel

Top, Old Europa, by Mark Garrett. Below Mark Garrett in his studio.

March 2014

Untethered at Dogpatch Gallery

Jim Van Buskirk

The past few years have been challenging for Mark Garrett. His mom died, he tested positive for HIV, he left his 25-year-long senior museum technician position with the Fine Arts Museums, and he reached, as Garrett put it, “the speed limit:” 55. No wonder his new show is called Untethered.

“The name Untethered was important to me because it references both a sense of dislocation as well as a sort of liberation and possibility,” Garret explained. “It perfectly describes the state I found myself in while I was traveling in Europe for six weeks. Ties to my day-to-day life felt more and more tenuous. My mother’s death generated both a sense of loss and acceptance of change. Terminating a 25-year day job severed my intense work identity, but opened exciting—sometimes terrifying—new doors of opportunity. Seroconverting at 50 was scary, and also brought me to a better understanding of my body and a more vibrant state of health. All of these things came to represent the language of my artwork.”

Dogpatch Gallery owner John Warner attended Garrett’s open studio last fall, and shortly thereafter offered him a show. Garrett had participated in several prestigious group exhibitions, but this is his first solo show. Garrett appreciates that Warner exhibits “people whose work he likes, with no heavy commercial element.”

Untethered will feature between fifteen and twenty fairly large-scale works. The show’s subtitle, “Drawing with Scissors,” speaks to Garrett taking old maps, found at yard sales, flea markets, or on eBay, and cutting them up, or as he puts it “doodling.” He then arranges the fragments on either black or white backgrounds and carefully applies paint. The results are indescribably mesmerizing, less a reimagined geography than a cosmic implosion. The beautiful and mysterious pieces can be “about” many things, but are generally in the realm of the “fragility of consciousness, of the planet in general.”

“This liminal body of work evolved before I was fully aware of its origins,” said Garrett. “My practice of folding and cutting maps with scissors and applying the deconstructed fragments to paper with paint became my technical mantra for almost three years. Their sinewy, emotionally linear, and ruptured appearance are visually reminiscent of Rorschach inkblots. There is often some evident duality, or mirroring effect, at play here. Though it was never in the forefront of my mind, I believe these maps fueled a better understanding of my/our subconscious minds and how a series of life altering events contributed to this visual expression.”

When asked about his expectations for the show, Garrett said that he hopes it “gives people of sense of how you can look at something so familiar and look at it differently, see it visually transformative at least, if not some other way. These mapworks conjure up ideas of fragility and polarity, the geophysical ‘ring of fire,’ our Bay Area vulnerability, and also our constant state of uncertainty relative to our present—and at times—dislocated sense of the world…Their explosive and sometimes tenuous appearance emerge for me as a metaphor of holding the world even as its outlines shift radically and unpredictably.”

As difficult to describe as any artwork, these pieces must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Don’t miss the chance to meet Garrett at the opening, March 21 from 6 to 8 p.m., and then revisit the exhibit through April 19, 2014.

Dogpatch Café & Gallery is at 2295 Third Street, at 20th Street.

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