As history moves forward, every moment appears to be a new moment of discovery and progression, despite the struggles or difficulties of any particular era. We often talk about discovery and progression in relation to society at large, yet we actually tend to think about these concepts in relation to ourselves. There is constantly a strong sense of globalism projected by individuals, likely out of a fear of severe solipsism, yet the making and presentation of Jonathan Marshall’s work suggests we can only truly understand other cultures and other eras by understanding ourselves in our own era. Hence, the old world is always new and the new world is always old.
The overwrought nature of many of Marshall’s works in tandem with their assumed humility acknowledges the simultaneous selfishness and selflessness involved in the impulses of each act of perceived discovery and progression. More importantly though, the care and consideration of each of these objects (or ‘art-ifacts’) proposes that if the ego is removed from these acts and the focus is on contemplation, we are better able to analyze the present moment and momentarily collapse the past and future. Each of these works sit, stand, or lean with a mystical and mythical autonomy, scrambling time and place, and pervasively positing “what happened before will happen again.”
Marshall’s elegiac works elicit a striking impression of hope, despite the somewhat somber languages they speak. In fact, Marshall often quotes writers, including Kurt Vonnegut or Bruce Chatwin, who share the sentiment of darkness shedding light. Perhaps this is most freely and eloquently illustrated in Marshall’s assembled quilt of South America inverted, titled Map of the Old New World, which in a way serves as a centerpiece for the exhibition. In this particular work, Marshall utilizes personal materials, such as retired work shirts and dress shirts as well as moving blankets (used to protect his own works) not only as a patterned backdrop which mimics other two-dimensional works featured in the exhibition, but also as the shape of the continent, itself. He then outlines a bewildering assessment of “historical” accounts tied to the upside down land, from the perspective of an enthusiast as opposed to a specialist. This unpretentious ambition along with the provided intimate accessibility serves as a way to concurrently engage and confound the viewer. This piece, like many others in the exhibition, is emblematic of how Marshall routinely references and subverts the act of myth-building, and instead offers the option of myth-editing.
Keith J. Varadi, August 2013Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall (1981) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Previously his work has been included in the group show Heel Gezellig (2011, Grimm) curated by Matthew Day Jackson and exhibited at Man & Eve Gallery (2008, London), Art Palace Gallery (2010, Houston, TX), and The Blanton Museum of Art (2010, Austin, TX).
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