new-york

Mark Tansey

Curt Marcus Gallery

“Dumb it down,” could be a motto for Mark Tansey’s work. Everything in a Tansey painting funnels into a one-liner. He uses writers and other artists as “straight men,” insinuating the viewer into a good-natured complicity, that only a sourpuss would spoil. At the same time, the paintings make disconcertingly large claims for themselves; Tansey aims to critique nothing less than discourse itself.

Using Robert Smithson’s drawing A Heap of Language, 1966, as his point of departure, Tansey creates a “ground” of stenciled, rubber-stamped or rendered type from which he conjures forth his images. These pictures portray scenarios set against the sort of landscapes Smithson was known to favor: rocky gorges, gaping chasms, natural bridges, and mountain ranges. Throughout, Craig Owens’ essay “Earth-words,” 1979 (in which Smithson’s A Heap of Language figured prominently) hangs heavy; the allusion to

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