Written By Devin Hardy
ROBERT MARS, Our Lady of the Gun Kate, 2021
Mixed Media with Neon on Panel, 46” x 46”
In this exhibition, Robert Mars dexterously navigates three seemingly disparate styles. He blends Pop Art with abstraction and throws in a nod to traditional American Folk Art to create this stunning and stimulating body of work. Diehl Gallery is pleased to present, Idols & Abstractions.
CLICK HERE to view the exhibition on Artsy.
With his cheeky, vibrant palette and his use of vintage newspapers and iconography primarily from the ‘50s and ‘60s, Mars’ work has been likened to that of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Richard Diebenkorn, among other legends of the Pop Art Movement.
A hallmark of Mars’ work is his use of traditional American quilting patterns as the inspiration for the tessellated backdrops that frame the iconic imagery in the foreground. This seems to be a kind of commentary on the American relationship to celebrity. In a culture where fame, fortune, and beauty reign supreme, the craftsman and the humble beginnings of this nation are often put aside, particularly now in our digital media saturated age. In some ways, quilting seems an archaic trade of a bygone era. Then again, the type of celebrity that existed in the 1950s and 1960s, the Golden Age of American popular culture, also feels nostalgic, lost in the sea of social media, self-promotion, and cyber-space. Even his medium of vintage newspapers – a slightly dated form of information dissemination, plays a role in his ever-evolving commentary on the nature of media and its influence on American culture over time.
There is a distinct air of nostalgia in his work but at the same time, with his mash-up of styles and materials, there is a freshness about it, an ability to push the boundaries and definitions established over time in the “art world”. Mars’ pieces are executed with a precision and a playfulness that speaks to his ability to juggle dichotomies. There is a strict architectural sensibility in them as well as a kind of familiarity. They are at once, satisfying and electrifying, newspapers and neon.
In a recent body of work, Mars eliminated most of the representational elements of his pieces. This complete shift to abstraction seems to be yet another chapter in his work’s evolving narrative. The Folk Art component of his work that always been present in the background, has come to the forefront, taking the stage in place of the objects and celebrities (who practically became objects) in the public eye. This seems to mirror certain trends in the art world – the resurrection of fiber arts, ceramics, and other mediums that were for so long labeled ‘craft art’ rather than fine art.
In this exhibition, we bring together both bodies of work to create a visual commentary on both the conceptual and the aesthetic evolution of Mars’ style.
Robert Mars is a graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York City, and has exhibited worldwide. His work is included in museum collections in Munich, Tokyo, Amsterdam, London, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Paris, Aspen and Naples. Coca-Cola has bought several works and commissioned a number of pieces for their world tour, which celebrated their trademark bottle shape. He was selected alongside Damien Hirst for the Absolut Vodka Blank campaign and his largest piece created to date was acquired by Philip Morris/Altria for their corporate headquarters. In 2017, Mars published his first monograph. He currently lives and works in Connecticut.