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Calvin Marcus: Young Artists 2018

William J. Simmons

Photography by Jason Schmidt

Calvin Marcus

“I do think of my work as being stripped down to bare necessity,” says Calvin Marcus. “I don’t dress any of it up to make it more appealing or decorative.” It is perhaps this commitment to a minimal language that allows him to explore simultaneously muted and excessive forms.

“People say some of the things I make are ‘weird.’ I think that they’re weird too, but the thoughts most people have are weird,” he says. “Some people are able to see themselves in the images or the ideas and others are looking at it from a distance.” The radical possibility of identification with works of art is a complex notion in Marcus’s work—if we do find ourselves inside his work, what might we find? It might be scary or confusing or beautiful, and that is a risk Marcus invites us to take.

Calvin Marcus

Calvin Marcus’ Untitled, 2017.

An interest in the fantastic, therefore, does not have to take art objects outside the realms of empathy or self-identification. Marcus goes on, “Though the work is reflective of me, my ideas, my quirks, etc., I think the work is on a baseline relating to some basic human conditions, feelings and introspections.” Marcus’s work thus becomes a conduit for the development of emotional sensitivity through art objects. In his series Green Calvin, for instance, ceramic chickens with carved smiles inhabit green vinyl fields painted on hardboard panels. It is meme-able, to be sure, but anxiously so. We have all felt so abjectly embarrassed as to feel like a grotesque object pinned to a wall. Or perhaps we have all felt unseen. All of this Marcus accomplishes with a precise attention to materials, such that these human experiences become solidified in tangible objects.