Leap and Then Look: Exploring Life to Find Your Artistic Voice with Mark Joshua Epstein

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Mark Joshua Epstein is a gifted storyteller and artist. If you want a great evening, hang out with Mark and talk about what you are working on and be prepared to laugh and think differently about what you have created. Born in Rockville, Maryland, Mark spent his early school years at a conservative Jewish Day School and his summers at a progressive camp learning about Third Wave Feminism. This duality in his formative years hints at his later exploration for a new and alternative space in his work. Something that pushes back and asks why it must be one way or another, both or neither. He achieves this by stacking fiberglass shapes to create new forms that function as a shaped canvas but also protrude slightly to make you question if it is also a sculpture. What is the line? Is there a line and if so, should it be there?

This questioning also arises in the pattern that is applied to the work. Some of the pattern points to op-art while other areas remind us of the hand and tools making the piece. In Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing, Ink splotches are dripped onto the surface and encapsulated by a line forming a circle. This pattern radiates out and brings to mind cells in the body. His knack for storytelling comes through in his titles such as Small Talk at the Salad Bar. These titles add another level to his work. The seemingly abstract pieces begin to shift just enough for us to see a figure, or what could be a stand in at least, challenging us to wonder, does the piece have to be either or?

Mark Joshua Epstein is an artist, educator and curator. He received an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London, and a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Epstein has had solo or two person shows at Ortega y Gasset Projects’ Skirt Space (Brooklyn, NY) SPRING/BREAK Art Show (NY, NY), Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY), NARS Foundation Project Space (Brooklyn, NY), Caustic Coastal (Salford, England) Vane Gallery (Newcastle, England), Demo Project (Springfield, IL), Biquini Wax Gallery (Mexico City, Mexico), Breve (Mexico City, Mexico) and Brian Morris Gallery (New York, NY).

Selected group shows include Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), Des Moines Art Center (Des Moines, IA), Collar Works (Troy, NY), Good Children Gallery (New Orleans, LA), Monaco (St Louis, MO), DAAP Galleries at the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), and Beverly’s (New York, NY).

Epstein has been a resident at Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, Jentel Foundation, Macdowell Colony, KHN Center for the Arts, I-Park and Saltonstall Foundation amongst others. His work has appeared in publications such as New American Paintings, Art Maze Magazine and Dovetail. He works as a lecturer at the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, at the University of Michigan.

“Reckoning with the change that accompanies a new studio and landscape, new shaped paintings, my largest to date, delve deeper into queer ornament and graphic excess, while limiting their color schemes. Taking inspiration from pattern and decoration, op art, and furniture design, these works continue the use of ornate patterning and overlapping panels that confound perception, while relishing in a new discomfort of compositional order. One painting’s title, Finding refuge in inefficiency (2021), nods to the pleasures found in the laborious and time-consuming nature of pattern-making exemplified in these recent works. And, as with earlier paintings, these works continue to challenge a viewer’s sense of taste and orientation.

Recent photographs, stemming from an interest in index and documentation, further emphasize my painting process. The images reproduce hand-made cut-outs, created from scraps of paper, which I often use to generate repetitive patterns within my paintings. Normally meant to deliver flatness and depth, shape and form to my fiberglass surfaces, the cut-outs in these photographs reframe the landscape immediately surrounding my studio.

My current work, both in painting and photography, refuses the either/or of binary polarities and opposing geographic pulls. All the while, by latticing together different planes, motifs, and marks, my work never forgets its own amusement.”-MJE

TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS EPISODE:

-Growing up with progressive summers and a conservative school year

-Dealing with anxiety due to change

-Moving to Canada to pursue a different major

-Gap Year

- “Leap and then Look”

-Graduate School in London

-Working in museum education

-Interior Spaces and being inspired by his grandfather

-Excubert rooms and wild interiors

-Hustling in the art world

-Making work that takes time

-Bathroom colors

-Leaving NYC

-Leaving a little bit at a time

-his current show

-Staying open when curating a space

ARTIST SHOUTOUTS:

Christian Maychack @cmaychack

Yvette Molina @yvette_molina

Adam Liam Rose @adamliamrose

Zahar Vaks @zaharvaks

Elizabeth McMahon @elizabethwmcmahon

LINKS:

Website: www.markjoshuaepstein.com

Instagram: @markjoshuaepstein

Current solo show at Ortega y Gasset: www.oygprojects.com/the-skirt-current

Current group show at Arlington Arts Center: www.arlingtonartscenter.org/exhibits/2021/stretched/

Upcoming outdoor group show in New York: www.bravinlee.com/regrowth-riverside

I Like Your Work Links:

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