Marcus Jansen: ‘Victims and Victors’ January 13 – February 19, 2022 Almine Rech Grosvenor Hill Broadbent House London W1K 3JH
Almine Rech London is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of American artist Marcus Jansen, on view from January 13 until February 19, 2022. This will be Marcus Jansen’s second solo exhibition with Almine Rech.
Each year, at 11am on 11 November the world falls silent to remember those who lost their lives in the battlefields of World War I. The so-called Great War was meant to be the war to end all wars, but since then, countless other conflicts have unleashed their horror and despair across the globe. Again and again, governments insist that the best way to resolve an argument is to kill. How to disrupt this terrible cycle of violence? Art is one way.
Unlike many of the artists whose work protests the cruelties of war, Marcus Jansen’s searing paintings and sculptures evolved from his direct experience. After spending his formative years in the Bronx and Queens in New York and then Monchengladbach in Germany, he joined the United States Army. Deployed in 1990 to the Gulf War, and then later to Korea and Germany, after eight years he returned home, diagnosed with PTSD.
He told me ‘I know people who did four, five, six tours and I don’t know how you could do that and come back and function as a human being.’ Back in the United States, his rehabilitation included art therapy. Painting gave him the language to explore what he had been through. ‘Art’, he says, ‘saved my life. It’s the ultimate celebration of my freedom.’
Jansen talks about the ‘hyper-alertness’ that is required on the battlefield, and how, at times of great danger, he had ‘never felt so alive’. This commingling of fear, focus and energy is very clear in his large-scale paintings.
Without preliminary sketches, he builds tightly coiled worlds in hard, fast lines; perspective is skewed, bodies are dispensable and what constitutes the so-called ‘real world’ is up for grabs. After the rigidly controlled environment of the military, he rejoices in the chaos of the studio, shaping images from whatever floats into his consciousness: a memory, a conversation, a scene on TV, a news item.
For his latest exhibition, ‘Victims and Victors’, Jansen has shone a light on the biases of traditional history – a tale written, in the main, by white men. To really understand it, we need to examine the past from myriad angles and perspectives.
In warfare, the individuality of a soldier is negated: victory is predicated on uniformity and consensus. To counter this, Jansen often focusses on a single combatant, as if to reinstate their personhood and agency. (‘Painting,’ he has said, ‘is the most intimate act of war.’)
‘Victims and Victors’ is on view from January 13 until February 19, 2022.
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