From The Look of Love press release:
With all the immediacy of plein air painting these large canvases approximate the grandeur of a long-lost era of salons and fin de siècle splendor, all the while referencing recent pop culture, a mix that reverberates for the artist by dint of her own disparate passions.
Inspired by Frederic Church's dramatic 19th century landscapes and the Florida Highwaymen, a self-taught group of African-American artists self-named “The Last Great American Art Movement of the 20th Century,” her renderings of classic ocean sunsets, arctic glaciers, rocky cliffs and dramatic waterfalls also serve as stand-ins for the drama of romantic relationships. She transforms the tightly rendered compositions of the Hudson River masters and quaint oil paintings by Sunday tourists into loose, prismatic visions distinctly her own. Some works are from straight-forward perspectives, while others are abruptly interrupted by bands of unnatural color. The finished results vary from clearly recognizable landmarks, such as Niagara Falls, to hazy seaside images that conjure up hurricanes as much as picture-postcards depicting long romantic walks on the beach.
While a soundtrack of Burt Bacharach played in the studio, Markus worked on the floor, applying acrylic paint to unprimed canvases, a tricky and delicate technique that allows for no mistakes but occasionally results in happy accidents. With a remarkable degree of control, Markus manipulates the paint with brushes and water, as the pigments saturate and bind with the raw canvas. This technique yields both masterful and random effects that mimic nature itself: whether misty, luminous, stark or drenched, her sky is limitless and her reservoirs deep.
From the Ille Arts press release:
In “11” the brush strokes are confident and the saturated colors powerfully stain the unprimed canvases. This show captures Markus’ experience in her studio and her personal life. In her own words the artist describes her process: “ In May my father became ill and passed away. I spent three weeks in Buffalo in the house I grew up in and I was thinking a lot about growing up in the late 70's and having too much free time in the summer, hanging out with my brother, listening to music and watching TV. From that I ended making paintings that look like they might be doodles out of some bored metal head high school kid's history book. Gabor is my dad's name. Somehow I started to draw his name like it was a logo for a metal band. I like to think of Gabor as been some huge metal band out of Eastern Europe.”
Paying homage to such iconoclastic punk bands as the Ramones and maybe subconsciously referring back to the B-52s’ Rock Lobster, Markus’s paintings are historical instagrams. Her Bill painting is a De Kooning portrait, but it also bears a great resemblance to her late father Gabor. In Liz Markus’ life, art and personal events coexist on one conscious level. She, like no other of her peers, can pull together the striking visual and biographical narrative.
From the press release for Are You Punk Or New Wave:
Recollecting a sequence of youthful inspirations with images gleaned from such wide-ranging sources as Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Johnny Rotten, Christopher Wool and Jean Michael Basquiat, Liz Markus’s third solo exhibition at ZieherSmith, Are You Punk or New Wave? pulls together a disparate cast of characters that have re-invigorated her studio practice with a new immediacy. Always reinforced by a phalanx of art historical referents, Markus offers a postmodern blitz of glamour and glitz in art, fashion, music and culture, subtly referencing contemporary politics, as well.
Painted with fluid, delicate washes of acrylic on unprimed canvas, Markus presents a sequence of three paintings of Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten that both celebrate the singer and link him conceptually to Andy Warhol and, specifically, his 1963 Double Elvis. The image resonates with various dual corollaries: iconoclastic American rock and roll poses re-translated into heroic caricature, while the emerging artist looks backward to a past master, who made his own self-caricature a crucial part of his practice.
WAR and RELAX, two text paintings featuring the sloganeering of 80’s dance pop sensations Frankie Goes to Hollywood balance a copy of Christopher Wool’s Apocalypse Now a cheeky riff that refers to our own current wars while simultaneously remembering the high flying peaceful times when the originals were created. Markus also captures 80’s art nonpareil Basquiat hamming in a football helmet and Kate Moss from the back, wearing a leather jacket emblazoned with "God Save the Queen" — here a stand in for the artist herself, light-heartedly rebellious in recollection of her own youth in the 1980’s. Moss stands too as a symbol of the success and excess of celebrity culture tinged with scandal, controversy and notoriety.
The lynchpin of the exhibition is a large collage of Artforum advertisements from the 1980’s. Affixed to canvas with the visual imagery covered in silver glitter, Markus defaces the actual object of art and reduces long-past shows to nothing but their salient details. A nod to our current culture’s easy admiration and equally effortless dismissal of celebrity heroes, Markus looks backward with equal parts reverence and suspicion.
From the press release for Hot Nights At The Regal Beagle:
In Liz Markus’s second solo exhibition at ZieherSmith, she moves beyond the hippie era subjects of her last show to an unexpected side of American culture. Instead of portraits of long-haired drop-outs, the artist now approaches emblematic subjects of opposite persuasions.
Too young for a first hand experience of the 60s, I was 13 when Reagan took office as president. My knowledge of Nancy Reagan was limited to her penchant for red Bob Mackey dresses, the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, and the obvious power she held in the White House. My parents ingrained in me a distaste for the Reagan administration but I didn’t think much more about Nancy until I came across a classic photo of her in Vanity Fair several years ago. There was something about her face that was compelling. Initially, I had hoped that she wouldn’t immediately read as Nancy but as a generic WASP matriarch of that era. Nope. Everyone knew she was Nancy. I think she must be very tightly wound up inside and I still absolutely dislike her politics. However, I can see that she was a strong and powerful woman in a time when there weren’t a lot of examples like Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama around. -Liz Markus
The exhibition is not limited to images of the former first lady, but Markus freely associates imagery from her and Ronald Reagan’s era. Taxidermy obliquely refers to WASP interiors, while Kenneth Noland inspired targets pay homage to the mid century idols that inform her techniques. Further subjects in the series range from punk rocker, John Lydon to journalist editor and writer, George Plimpton; while motorcycles speak as much to mid-life crises, as to the Easy Rider protagonists of her past work. Somehow the spectrum of a distant life pokes its spectral countenance through smeared lenses. Through these ghosts— both icon and iconoclast suffer and shine under her caustic, reverent brush.
In all, the works are united by her practice with saturated washes of acrylic on unprimed canvas. Though she has a remarkable degree of control, Markus also surrenders to chance as she pushes and pulls the paint with both brushes and gravity. Often the technical aspects of fresh paint mixing erratically convey both a sense of urgency and unlikely surprises of color, gesture and a chemical vibrancy.
From the press release for The More I Revolt The More I Make Love:
In her debut exhibition at ZieherSmith, Liz Markus presents a suite of new paintings that reference Vietnam War era imagery without nostalgia or sentimentality. Acutely cognizant of current circumstances, she harkens back with curiosity, skepticism and empathy to an era that ultimately resulted in lost optimism and lessons unlearned.
At the outset, single portraits and pairs of hippies commingle in bright atmospheres made up of hyperactive color. Markus considers a vague account behind each painting, spelled out in her titles, which often reference music of the time, like the pair of dreamy figures in "We Are Stardust" and "We Are Golden."
Summoning the attitudes of free love communes of the 1960s and 70s, Markus’s buoyant washes of pigment on unprimed canvas are energized by the element of chance, as she never quite knows just how the porous canvas will absorb and disperse color. Yet, often, these bright atmospheres turn dark with successive washes, alluding to the less cheerful side of the failed utopias, misguided ideals, and inherent narcissism of young movements that also underlies the tripped-out vision of the iconic "hippie." Some of the works are so subtle and hazy as to form a perceptual illusion between portrait, landscape, and pure abstraction – further inducing the sentiments of uncertainty, doubt, or even ignorance that plague a country at war aboard. Evoking Rorschach’s psychological probes, these images hover between golden, fluorescent hallucination and snapshot of nuclear demise, with other lyric-derived titles serving as foreboding warnings like "I Hope You Know A Lot More Than You’re Believing" and "It Starts When You're Always Afraid."
Markus is also working in homage to her own fascinations and obsessions during the 1970s: the widely recognized innovators of American abstract painting that informed her inclination to become a painter. Growing up near the Albright-Knox in Buffalo, she spent many hours of her childhood confronting the bloated vision of the works in that institution’s strong collection of mid-century masters, such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Morris Louis. She deftly maneuvers abstract expressionist, color field and pop imagery in the broad swath of her raw canvas, reacting to a period of turmoil that coincides with our own troubled conflicts.
This is a series of photographs from 1998-99 where I created maquettes of a fictional kunstalle complete with art works, gallery goers, and collectors which I then shot on film.