Mark Erickson is an American painter. The appeal in Mark’s painting is partly due to its spontaneous unchecked expression of energy. The surface is very sensual. You get the feeling of the artist’s physical involvement with the canvas in the creative process, especially in recent paintings which seem to invert the painting process. The surface of the canvas is covered with what feels like textured pigment of the darkest black, a varied bright color and some with gold leaf applied. Beneath the surface are the markings of a painting underneath. Our imagination must reconstruct the painting from what is only hinted at. Looking at these works is like discovering Pompeii beneath ancient lava as though the paint was pulled from the canvas to reveal its underside. Mark’s canvases are a fine example of the archeological approach to contemporary painting.
His work originated in theory from Abstract Expressionism, where at mid 20th Century, was a groundbreaking revolution in American art, it now becomes a rich tradition and point of departure. Influences of painters of the 1950s are evident in Mark’s work, yet the direction is Erickson’s own, clearly felt as the paintings breath the fresh air of contemporary thought. The works on metal appear as if somehow you abstracted a modern day color cartoon, word bubbles and all, twisted and turned it inside out.
The Dutch/American painter William DeKooning once noted that all paintings are in the long run either landscapes, portraits or still lifes. In Erickson’s work, they are decidedly landscapes, but the terrain traveled is sometimes uncharted and is as internal as it is external.
Mark Erickson was born in Hollywood, California. His early education was completed in California, Germany and Italy. He is a product of his experience on both continents and a family history combining the traditions of East Coast aestheticism and Wild West freedom. His mother and grandmother were New York artists. They studied under Hans Hoffman and knew Franz Kline before & after World War II. Erickson’s father was an jet aircraft designer and pilot, his father’s father a cowboy and a Marshal in the Dakota Territory.
Sometimes the paintings have a more urban energy with whirring colors flying across a brightly lit metropolis. The shapes, so perfectly formed, propel the pigment off the surface of the canvas. Erickson, transforming the flat plane, breathes life and depth into his paintings and pulls the viewer into the experience. He does this by modulating color against color and form against form in such a way that you feel you can travel within the work. It is easy to see his quick progression in experimenting with differing aesthetic issues and emerging with his own very original and individual voice… more about Mark
Traditional art, before the 20th Century, had as its principal goal to reproduce the visible world with the maximum amount of verisimilitude (what the French called vraisemblance) the probability and quality that art can appear real and arrive from truth. Artists responses were often limited to their subject matter. With the invention of the camera, artists were no longer responsible for replicating their world. At the same time, advances in science and the introduction of psychotherapy revealed to humans the fact that the world consists of a great deal more than we see before us. (Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ was introduced in 1905.) Movements, patterns and rhythms are a part of everything in nature, from the microscopic level to the juxtaposition of the planets.
A new visual language was bound to happen and did—most notably with the work of Pablo Picasso discovering the use of assemblage and collage in his work. Around 1912, Picasso went a step further, combining cubism with collage in works like ‘Still Life with Chair Caning’ in which he affixed an oilcloth–itself printed with an image of chair caning–to his canvas. While it didn’t depict any actual scene in nature, this new vocabulary of painting mixed with collage, balancing tones and shapes, was so pleasing and instinctively “natural” that it broke through new boundaries of what was accepted in art.
With the beginning of the 20th Century witnessing two cataclysmic wars, the world was reeling from the horrors of human military conflict and the disillusionment with the promise of the Industrial Revolution. The planet wide hardships brought on by the Depression and shifts in world economics, a time of change was occurring, and one singular event being watched by many was the center of the art world being spotlighted to New York City from Paris. Abstract Expressionism, in which the artist worked out complex communications directly onto the canvas became the order of the day. “The need”, as Robert Motherwell put it, “was for felt experience—intense, immoderate, direct, subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic.” Those who were beginning to understand this non-literal language of painting were struck at the core. The language of abstraction was validated and artists were completely freed to develop its vocabulary and explore its possibilities.
The paintings that Mark Erickson offers are interpretations of this same abstract language refined to high eloquence. A mid career, disciplined artist, Erickson offers a different approach to abstraction in his paintings that have the essential elements of harmony, light and contrast.
Besides influences of Willem DeKooning, Mark’s paintings are often inspired by Pierre Matisse. Working in Collioure, in the South of France, Matisse became fascinated with the strong verticals and horizontals created by the bright sun streaming in through the windows bouncing into his studio. His exaggerations of the those lines created paintings magnificent in their structure and divisions of space. Richard Diebenkorn was also inspired by these works. Erickson’s large painting studio in Oakland where sunlight pours through windows gives him a chance to experiment with light and paint, casting shadows and similar effects on the walls of the painting area. Playing with reflections and color, mixing paint at random, Erickson captures a static energy in his new works. Mark presents to us a new and exciting group of paintings whose structure, color and form are uninhibitedly direct.