This article was written after an exhibition in New Orleans.
The Vastness of Eve - Past the Landscape
By Sara Deleon
Paintings of Mark Erickson
New Orleans Arts
Traditional art, before the 20th Century, had as its principal goal to reproduce the visible world with the maximum amount of verisimilitude (what the French called vraisemblance) the probability and quality that art can appear real and arrive from
truth. Artists responses were often limited to their subject matter. With the invention of the camera, artists were no longer responsible for replicating their world. At the same time, advances in science and the introduction of psychotherapy revealed to humans the fact that the world consists of a great deal more than we see before us. (Einstein’s 'Theory of Relativity' was introduced in 1905.) Movements, patterns and rhythms are a part of everything in nature, from the microscopic level to the juxtaposition of the planets.
A new visual language was bound to happen and did—most notably with the work of Pablo Picasso discovering the use of assemblage and collage in his work. Around 1912, Picasso went a step further, combining cubism with collage in works like 'Still Life with Chair Caning' in which he affixed an oilcloth--itself printed with an image of chair caning--to his canvas. While it didn’t depict any actual scene in nature, this new vocabulary of painting mixed with collage, balancing tones and
shapes, was so pleasing and instinctively "natural" that it broke through new boundaries of what was accepted in art.
With the beginning of the 20th Century witnessing two cataclysmic wars, the world was reeling from the horrors of human
military conflict and the disillusionment with the promise of the Industrial Revolution. The planet wide hardships brought on by the Depression and shifts in world economics, a time of change was occurring, and one singular event being watched by many was the center of the art world being spotlighted to New York City from Paris. Abstract Expressionism, in which the artist worked out complex communications directly onto the canvas became the order of the day. “The need”, as Robert Motherwell put it, “was for felt experience—intense, immoderate, direct, subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic.”
Those who were beginning to understand this non-literal language of painting were struck at the core. The language of
abstraction was validated and artists were completely freed to develop its vocabulary and explore its possibilities.
The paintings that Mark Erickson offers are interpretations of this same abstract language refined to high eloquence. A mid career, disciplined artist, Erickson offers a different approach to abstraction in his paintings that have the essential elements of harmony, light and contrast.
Besides influences of Willem DeKooning, Mark’s paintings are often inspired by Pierre Matisse. Working in Collioure, in the South of France, Matisse became fascinated with the strong verticals and horizontals created by the bright sun streaming in through the windows bouncing into his studio. His exaggerations of those lines created paintings
magnificent in their structure and divisions of space. Richard Diebenkorn, early in his career was also inspired by these works.
Erickson's large painting studio in Oakland where sunlight pours through windows gives him a chance to experiment with light and paint, casting shadows and similar effects on the walls of the painting area. Playing with reflections and color, mixing paint at random, Erickson captures a static energy in his new works. Mark presents to us a new and exciting group of paintings whose structure, color and form are uninhibitedly direct.