Exhibition Artwork Artwork Statement About the Artist
History and identity are linked by states of transition. Like a makeshift tent that eventually becomes dismantled under the duress of weather or time or a child's bedroom that physically evolves as she/he matures, the inevitable march of history is written in the natural and built environments—the physical world—just as it is both on and within the individuals who inhabit it. My work explores the authorship of time in spaces of transition, examining the diachronic intersections of history and cultural identity through aesthetic studies of landscapes that map visual sceneries as fluid sites of exchange.
My drawings recontextualize simplified shapes, signs, and symbols from historical, natural, and architectural imagery-- forming representational atmospheres of fractured landscapes. Their forms are contrived from a multitude of sources and through their process are co-opted, altered, and spliced to adopt hybrid identities and disrupt their visual composition. The eclectic and exaggerated array of colors highlight the formal as well as conceptual disparities; skies are dark but still obviously sunny and the landscapes are rendered subordinate to their refractions. The color palette references an exaggeration of a “Caribbean color” theory; an overstated analogy to the Caribbean as a tropical playground for self-indulgence. The verdant landscapes, exotic flora, and the tropical greenery represent microcosms of an earthly “Eden”, which are implications of the paradise myth. The represented natural environment is subordinate to the geometric, decorative, and structural elements, each attempting to regulate each other in the next layer.
The drawings and installations that I make are inspired by Puerto Rico, my childhood home, and place of birth, where the shifting landscapes of the island (be they political, economic, or ecological) are thrown into relief by tides of environmental degradation, political exploitation, and economic upheaval. For me, the island of my youth provides an ideal entry point from which to consider the post-colonial economies and neo-imperial futures familiar to many countries throughout the Caribbean. Historical transitions here are often rendered as dystopian: the people and the land vulnerable subjects to natural disaster, corruption, and the abuses of global capital. Puerto Rico bears this history in the physical terrain; it is inscribed on the land just as it is in the minds of its people.
About the Artist
Mario Manuel Marzán’s work explores the shifting, changing and constantly evolving negotiation of geographical spaces in relation to individual and cultural identities and histories. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has achieved numerous awards including a National Association of Latino Arts and Culture grant, a North Carolina Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant, and a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has been reviewed in Artforum and ArtPapers magazines, among other newspapers and publications. He received his BFA from Bowling Green State University and his MFA at Carnegie Mellon University. Mario was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and is currently an Associate Professor of Studio Art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.