Mark George (1970), has been making Pop-influenced works with a distinctly ’50s and ’60s sensibility since the early 2000s. For the exhibition, Pout, George has selected a suite of his works that address concerns of figuration, as well as those that tackle land and sky.
He frames the paintings in Pout as a reaction to (and against) a prevailing ethos of sustained happiness: a reality where “no bad vibes” are ever allowed to permeate or interrupt a perfectly coiffed surface of calm. His is a world of real emotions and experiences even if they are painted in a winkingly flat style that recalls Roy Lichtenstein and Margaret Kilgallen.
By deploying methods used in commercial sign painting and Pop culture, George is able to signal a feeling of timelessness where the past and present collide. Like a pre-Santa Fe Dennis Hopper, there’s a hard sunshine and clean khakis vibe to the pieces that offers a counterpoint in materiality to the emotive content therein. Driven largely by the females figures, tension is taut beneath the surface. The viewer imagines fingernails driven into palms, hair twisted into tiny knots, and that prickling sweat feeling. It’s the feeling of being asked to do just one more thing, when you’re already working above capacity. Here, in this extravagant hard-edged reality where no matter the situation, that winged eyeliner does not smudge, eyes nonetheless teeter on the edge of weeping.
Pouting is something children and women often get accused of doing. Similar to a sulk, it conveys an immature response to a person or situation. But too, pout can describe, in a highly sexualized manner, the way a person holds their mouth in an effort to evince certain reactions. Additionally it is often a word used in cosmetics and fashion realms. George’s is an aesthetic that recalls comics and pulp fiction covers, that often have a relationship to a fashion aesthetic from the ’30s-’70s. This a gaspingly dramatic world, with signs that gesture towards a kind of authorless narrative--indeed, the paintings seem to want to inhabit that Barthian realm operating outside of the boundaries of personality and genius. Instead into a familiar but hard to pin down story.
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