press release

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

This is the first time that the artist has used 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.

The artist lives and works in New York City. In January of 2005, a solo exhibition of Tansey’s paintings will open at the Museum Kurhaus in Kleve, Germany.

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


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Mark Tansey