About the Exhibition

Marcus Jansen in his studio
Marcus Jansen in his studio

Weinstein Gallery is pleased to present a mid-career retrospective of the work of artist Marcus Jansen, Obscure Line Between Fact and Fiction, curated in partnership with Brooke Lynn McGowan and titled after the artist's magnum opus of the same name. Opening October 21, 2017, this unparalleled collection of the last decade of the artist’s work, from 2007 to the present, comprises the largest exhibition in the United States and first on the West Coast of the German-American painter, whose unique oeuvre serves as an emotive and insightful critique of the contemporary American and global political and sociological landscape. Directly following a series of solo exhibitions in Europe and barely in advance of his exhibitions at the Zitadelle in Berlin and the Baker Museum in Florida, Obscure Line Between Fact and Fiction not only indicts contemporary culture’s media-driven simulacra, obscuring a perception of the real, but also and moreover, in painting, multi-media, and sculptural form, sounds a stirring battle cry against the miscarriages of justice of the early 21st century through an expressive and engaged aesthetic, arguably unseen in American art since Rauschenberg or Basquiat.

A former U.S. Army soldier turned combatant for the avant-garde, Marcus Jansen has channeled the overwhelming distress of his experience of violent conflict and his deep sympathy for its unintended victims into messages of resistance to the overreaching authority and profound moral danger of the techno-military-industrial complex and its modes of persuasion: the manifestation of the surreal within real life. Indeed, there are two Marcus Jansens: one went to war and perhaps did not come back, and the other continued to paint. Addressing at once the persistence of U.S. imperialism by way of global capital; the temerity and trespass of technological advancement; the ubiquitous rise of a society of surveillance; and vitally, the nefarious effects on the lives of the innocent victims of an international state of constant war, Jansen’s indefatigable oeuvre stares into the abyss. And the abyss stares back.

Born in 1968, Jansen spent his youth between New York City and Monchengladbach, Germany, the child of a West Indian mother and a German father. First influenced by the rebellious gestures of the 1980s graffiti movement in America, admiring those who valiantly rejected oppression through the action of marking space in paint, he would make his start peddling his paintings on the sidewalks of Manhattan’s SoHo district. Yet it was the Desert Storm offensive which permanently altered the artist’s mode of perception and manner of expression. “Painting,” states Jansen, “is the most intimate act of war.“ Spurred on by a strong sense of duty as well as a conflicted German-American identity, he enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1989 and was immediately sent to the front. Profoundly traumatized by the carnage and loss of innocent lives in the great expanse of Iraqi desert that he witnessed from his aerial position, Jansen was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon his release from service, and not long after he began to channel his pain in the production of paintings—paintings which deftly assault the very machine of aggression of which he was once a part.

And it is expression rather than aggression which marks Jansen’s compelling contemporary production. Reportedly discovered and mentored by former museum director and art historian Jerome A. Donson, it was Donson who dubbed Jansen as the innovator of ‘modern urban expressionism’ and as reminiscent of the early 20th century Ashcan School of art. Dr. Manfred Schneckenburger, former Documenta curator, goes further, noting Jansen as “one of the most Important American painters of his generation.”

The wound of landscape remains with the artist and is recalled here in his own expansive, gestural compositions. The tradition of landscape in which Jansen paints is deeply engrained in American culture, harkening to the history of the Hudson River School, however in his sweeping horizontal compositions, such as the exhibition namesake or tangled web of hills of technological apathy in Cyber Surveillance on Wasteland (2009), the halcyon days are over. What is left for him are not idyllic plains but precisely wastelands—the aftermath of the terrain of the American Dream, even the aftermath of a Battlefield (2011). As Schneckenburger wrote on the occasion of Jansen's recent series of solo museum exhibitions in Germany, “Even if it were conceivable to return, with great effort, this America of exploited landscapes, hybrid animals, artificial rain clouds, and broken dams to the untouched spaces of the nineteenth century, there is no way back from the collapsed wooden shacks and dilapidated walls, severed power poles, and hidden antennas—not even to the trash-filled backyards of the Ashcan School.” The professor continues, “In any case, storm damage is a recurring misfortune in Jansen’s work. For example, he depicts a building—a weather-monitoring station, of all things, meant to issue storm warnings—in tatters and with a missing roof.” The question is, upon this hallowed ground, can any life be rebuilt—his or our own.

Marcus Jansen in Examine & Report documentary film
Marcus Jansen in Examine & Report documentary film

About the Artist

Jansen was raised between New York City and Moenchengladbach, Germany, where he studied briefly at the Kunstgewerbe Schule, Berufsfachschule fuer Gestaltung and completed a three-year apprenticeship as a commercial house painter (Maler), during which he was first introduced to his current medium of choice, oil enamels. He joined the U.S. Armed Forces in 1989 and was immediately sent to Desert Storm. After his military discharge, Jansen was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. He started selling paintings on the streets of New York between Prince Street and Broadway as part of the group “Prince Street Kings,” transforming to a professional painter.

Jansen's first major book, Marcus Jansen DECADE, was published by the leading art book producer, Skira Editore, Italy. The book features a foreword by revolutionary London art dealer and Jansen's agent, Steve Lazarides. His most recent book, Marcus Jansen AFTERMATH, published by Hirmer Verlag, Munich, features text by Prof. Dr. Manfred Schneckenburger; Germany’s senior art critic at the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Dr. Gottfried Knapp; and a foreword by art historian Dr. Dieter Ronte, the former museum director of the Kunstmuseum in Bonn. Jansen was most recently spotlighted in an award-winning documentary film, Marcus Jansen: Examine & Report, a film by Emmy award-winning filmmaker, John Scoular.