New Media Arts Center 


Earth Eaters

Opening: Saturday, Ocotber 17th, 7:00-10:00pm. 

Show runs: Saturday, October 17th to November 10th.


The work of Jonanthan Marquis stands out as having a rather singular quality about it in the landscape of contemporary art today. Whether drawing is mobilized as a documentary form, or abstraction used as a type of process-based realism, or if the dynamics of installation art appear motivated by the naturalism of the world outside the wide cube, one could say, quite unabashedly, that these are all hallmarks of Marquis's artistic project. But more importantly is that when one walks into a gallery space composed by Marquis's works, one not only gets the feeling of being in a total work of art but even of becoming part of the composition itself. And, it is usually the composition of a living work of art, often made of pourous materiality that serves as a composite image of our world. 

But all of the above considerations are often heald in a state of tension that can be attributed to a specific series of considerations about how art functions in the expanded field of praxis and meaning production. There is first, in Marquis's work, something like the image of the journeyman, which is to say, evidecne of a skilled craftsman in many different mediums. In this regard his work is the very best of what working in the post-studio condition represents today; an artist who not only uses form in service of content, but who's selection of materials becomes content rather than merely being art "practice". The second sense in which Marquis is a journeyman is that the term itself carries a heavy set of associations with the diversified terms for manufacture, technical know-how, and even specialization. You will see this kind of virtuosity between meduims exercised amongst Marquis's most challenging pieces. And the third sense in which the figure of the journeyman might be said to apply to Marquis's select motifs is in that his aesthetic inclinations place us within worlds of meaning and making that rehearse art historical themes from the last few centuries without being reducible to their referents. By drawing new associations out of familiar structures through so many time-based operations, Marquis's works aim to take us on a journey past the world of obstruse reifaction and toward a confrontation with the real contradictions of the contemproary moment.

That is most in evidence in Marquis's oeuvre where art is often a record of acts and actions; of time spent and journey's made; of trace elements and material enclaves; the most obvious of which is how Marquis uses the gallery space to rethink how historical conditions are circumscribed by the history of aesthetics proper. From the period of the Enlightenment Marquis negotiates his way through the vistas of the sublime, from abstraction he takes a taste for both the monumental and the provisional, and from video art, Marquis's working program holds together an attenuated sense of suspended passage that is defined by the split between capturing cultural and natural scales of time. 

Beyond these particualr instances of genre specificity there is the way that Marquis's use of meduim specificity upends the confines that are regualrly attributed to both object and producer. This is most decidedly on view in Marquis's work when he engages with the rather Klienian desire to have an audience ingest the elements of art production, only he moves beyond the merely formal refrain of Yves Klien's bombastic use of blue as an object to drink, to get dunked in, to manufacture, to patent and finally, to polemicize. Instead, Marquiz's critique of consumerism hinges on the creation of a "Glacier icecream" that carries the enfolded meaning of creating a shared space between subject and object as well as it's obverse, which would be a kind of subjective utterance, or a provocation for the "i" to scream about be asked to ingest the remains of our failing resources. Or, we might look to how Fontana's focus on the incisive power of the cut in the canvas, the cut into the real adn against representative measures, appears equally inverted in Marquis's work. Whether by wounding the imagistic real in the form of discrete cuts or floor to ceiling slashes in the wide expanse of a digital prints, or the aggregate effects of wounded and scratched surfaces atop a material substrate, Marquis wants us to examine the substratum that organizes our actions in the world. And, of course, to overlook the presence of Flavin's iconic mode of illumination, which often sit adjacent Marquis's leaned, balanced and otherwise sliding signifiers in the gallery space, would be to miss both their dynamic interplay with and across other bodies in the space of the exhibition as well as the intertextual play of allusions to atmospheric effects outside.

And yet, what seeems most essential to the way that Marquis works is understanding how the discourses which once traded representational means for meduim specificity in the twentieth century can be reclaimed in the twenty-first without having to abandon their aesthetic achievements. That is to say, while the twentieth century saw the greatest expressions of the modern age as a kind of collective acting-out over and against the sublimation associated with indutrialization, the twenty-first century appears to be something like a period of ablation, or an era where the melting away of our illusions about the expropriation of the environemnt has finally thawed, so to speak. If anything, this is our cultural sea-change and Marquis is one of the most interesting expeditionary artists trying to cover this once hidden territory by any and all means possible. 

As such, his inversion of so many visual tropes of modernism, and even the postmodernism for that matter, both of which still hold to authorial intent or it's subversions as the high water mark of criticality, is put in question by Marquis's working program of viewing the senses as a form of extraction that is co-extensive with the very act of perception. To say or depict, or transpose is always already a shared act in Marquis's aesthetics just as his work is part of the new generation of artists that have taken up the charge of rethinking the consequences of phenomenology beyond Husserl and Ponty's deductions. This post-anthropocentric view is one that places the object's we encounter in a place of exchange without perceptive privilege, or what many now call a more object-oriented approach to understanding the flat ontology of roles we all share in interacting in the world. 

Which is to say, that Marquis is fully aware of the consequences of living in one of the least sustainable climates in the continental U.S., where our growing cities have become "heat-islands". And it is also not lost on Marquis's work either, which enters the discourse of contemporary art by not only addressesing the peaks and valleys of art history, but also of what it means to live life in the afterglow of peak oil and well into the spreading valleys left behind by rapid climate change. This is the monumental task of our times, and Marquis's work does not shy aways from the need to rethink the embodied relation between earth and self, consumption and subsumption, organism and cosmos. We are afterall, now living within the horizon of a truely shared global condition, one in which the dominant paraigm is that we are all fed, nourished and kept alive by the small blue planet that we inhabit together as earth eaters.


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