Faceless figures sitting cross-legged on street corners, hooded bodies floating facing down under bridges and transparent babies playing in puddles. Welcome to the surreal and absurd world of Mark Jenkins.
Inspired by the late figurative sculptor Juan Munoz, and Aphex Twin and Albert Camus' philosophies on the absurd, Jenkins' installations will make you laugh and squirm at the same time. What started with one figure in a refuse dump in Rio, has now sprawled across cities worldwide.
When you spot one of his figures placed on top of a billboard or lying facing down on the floor, you instantly look up from your phone, engage with the environment you stand in and question the position of the figure in relation to its surroundings. Jenkins challenges the idea that sculptures are just stand-alone pieces. His darkly poetic hollow shells expose a void, an emptiness carried around by marginalised individuals. Once in the public space, Jenkins' figures lead brief and lonely lives at the mercy of a society that rejects unwanted visual intrusions.
Jenkins's sculptural process involves "sampling" objects such as toy dolls, carousel horses, and his own body using a "dry-casting" process he first discovered in school. Wrapping objects in plastic wrap and then tape, he creates an external cast that he removes and then reassembles into surreal and ghostly sculptures.
His Outcasts series, displayed by The Outsiders in 2007, featured several of these casts including Tweedle Dee / Tweedle Dead, two cattle skull casts, one transparent and the other black, alluding to both the finality of death and a residual ghostly presence. The gallerly also featured Leap of Faith (2007), a decapitated, crucified figure and Outcast (2007), a cattle-skulled human figure withdrawn to the room's corner. Both of these pieces extend the idea of the outcast, the latter by appearance, and the former by societal condemnation.
In a world where artists are becoming brands and brands camouflage themselves as artists, Jenkins is simply trying to keep the environment stimulating. He turns regular space into art space and believes the ephemeral nature of street art is essential to maintaining a visual heartbeat in the city.
Through an invasion of sellotape babies and faceless hooded figures, Jenkins provokes confusion, laughter and anger. His art is an out-of-body experience - although they are disturbing, they are also encouraging. Like the balloons tied to the body in a Swedish river, his art symbolises hope, a belief that we can be pulled from the murky depths of loneliness and into something more meaningful.
Born in Alexandria, VA, USA 1970
Lives and works in Washington DC
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2014 Moment of Impact, Lazarides Rathbone, London
2014 Terrible, Horrible, Ruttowski 68, Cologne
2013 VOLTA, Now Contemporary, NYC
2013 The Studio, Patricia Dorfmann, Paris
2012 Holding Cell, Ruttkowlski 68, Cologne
2012 Living Layers, Wunderkammern Gallery, Rome
2011 Family Room, Volta/Carmichael Gallery, NYC
2010 Meaning Is Overrated, Carmichael Gallery, LA
2009 Purple Splendor, Ve.sch, Vienna
2009 The Golden Ass and Other Stories, Stricola Contemporary, NYC
2008 Glazed Paradise, Diesel Gallery, Tokyo
Selected Group Exhibitions
2014 In Situ, Fabien Castanier Gallery, LA
2014 Pixel Show, Sao Paulo
2014 Les Vraisemblables, Nuit Blanche, Paris
2014 Les Vraisemblables, Nuit Blanche, LA
2013 Art Context, Fabien Castanier Gallery, Miami
2013 BRUTAL, Lazarides Pop-Up, Old Vic Tunnels, London
2013 Yarat, Baku, Azerbaijan
2013 Ex Situ, Pompidou Centre, Paris
2013 Red Never Follows, Saatchi Gallery, London
2013 Unsupervised, Lombard-Freid Projects, NYC
2013 Vilnius Street Art Festival, Vilnius, Lithuania
2012 Anonymous, PERMM Museum, Perm, Russia
2012 Glazed Paradise, Gestalten Space, Berlin
2012 Five Senses, Milan, White Walls, Beirut Art Center, Beirut
2012 Katowice Street Art Festival, Katowice
2012 Highbrow, Lowbrow, Nobrow, MAMA, Rotterdam
2011 Global Art Lab, CEC/Ilkholm Theater, Tashkent
2011 Reality Bites, Post No Bills, Venice, CA
2011 The Underbelly Show, Opera Gallery, Miami
2011 Rojo Nova, Fundação Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro
2010 Hell's Half Acre, Lazarides Pop-Up, Old Vic Tunnels, London
2010 Subglobe 2, Konsthall, Örebro
2010 Rojo Nova, MIS, São Paulo
2010 Latitud Arte, Avant-Garde Urbano, Tudela
2010 Street And Studio, Kunsthalle, Vienna
2009 Grifters, Lazarides Charing Cross, London
2009 Tunnel 228, Lazarides Pop-Up, Old Vic Tunnels, London
2009 Manifest Hope, Washington DC
2009 Picnic In The City, Sangsangmadang Gallery, Seoul
2009 Santa's Ghetto, Bethlehem, West Bank
2009 Unbodied, Moscow 3rd Bienniale, Moscow and Ekaterinburg
2008 Apocalyptic Colors, Galerie Gabriele Senn, Vienna