MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN
In painter and sculptor Marc Quinn’s skillful hands, medium and message align to define the evolution of humanity
In his current series History & Chaos—which closes this Friday at the Goss-Michael Foundation, Marc Quinn explores a modern take on history viewed through the lens of the 24/7 news cycle. While some canvases freeze-frame a moment of conflict in a photorealist fashion, others (the Chaos series) are splashed with paint, obscuring their original source material in an almost violent manner.
“They’re kind of a play on the idea that traditional painting from antiquity to the early 20thcentury was the highest form of painting,” says Quinn. “In those days, (the work) was of emperors crossing the Alps or a king on his throne. Then when these uprisings started around 2011 with people being killed by the police, I realized this was a new form of history coming from the bottom up.
Through social media, it was connecting and creating movements to change the world. I found the rights to these images, and then one day I kept on throwing paint on top of an image until it completely obliterated. And that’s how a Chaos painting was made.”
Hyper-colored and jarring on the eye, they seem far from Quinn’s past work, but then again, he’s always been one to vary wildly from series to series and from sculpture to canvas in his attempt to capture man’s experience.
“They’re both different ways of creating art” says Quinn. “Sculpture is a spatial object in the realms that we inhabit. In a way, it’s a disruption of our world, and that’s why it has a particular strength. It’s an object you interact with like another person. With paintings, I think about creating something that hovers between a blank canvas and the idea of using painting to illustrate an image. One is about a virtual space, and one is about the real world. You can’t exist as an artist without exploring both—or I can’t exist without it, anyway.”
Regardless of what he’s currently working on, Quinn’s ideas have always lent themselves quite easily to our “everything’s bigger in Texas” mentality. The London-based artist is a longtime friend and supporter of Goss-Michael owner Kenny Goss’s MTV RE:DEFINE FOUNDATION benefits, as a repeat guest and finally as the night’s honoree. And his pieces always garner some of the highest bids of the evening; the beaded bronze sculpture of hands entitled The Archaeology of Social Networks sold for a jaw-dropping $450,000 earlier this year.
Even the sculpture that put him on the map—1991’s Self, created from ten pints of the artist’s own blood frozen in the shape of his head, was snapped up by notable local art collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky and donated to the Dallas Museum of Art.
Since that early work, Quinn’s subject matter has continued to be both of the moment and a little bit before it—from a bronze of Kate Moss in a twisty yoga position created years before every real housewife did sun salutations, to his 2010 series exploring transgender bodies made nearly a decade before Merriam-Webster recognized the nonbinary “they.”
“I want to make art that’s eternal, but also very much about the world we live in now,” he says of his choice of subjects. “When I made the sculptures in 2009, this thing of the whole transgender world was very pioneering. I felt this idea of people transforming themselves was very much of the way the world was going, and it was important to bring that idea to the history of art. If they become artworks, they live in museums, and people see them in hundreds of years.”
Currently, the artist is working on a project with an even bigger focus. Our Blood (formerly entitled Odyssey) is based on the concept that blood that runs through our veins is the same—whether we be oligarch, citizen, or refugee. Quinn has frozen 2,000 liters of the stuff garnered from over 10,000 resettled refugees as well as celebrities such as Kate Moss and Paul McCartney. Suspended in two metric-ton cubes and sheltered by a Norman Foster-designed pavilion, Our Blood will make its debut at the New York Library in 2021 before touring the globe, benefiting refugee-supporting organizations through Quinn’s Human Love charity.
For Quinn, this ambitious piece is not only a return to a material that helped him make his mark, but it’s also another step in a career where artistic inspiration and activism are equally important.
“One of the great things about blood is it’s such a common denominator,” Quinn says. “We all have it—it represents our life and our life’s blood. I came to the idea that my blood and your blood is the same, so if we’re all the same, we have to rethink how we think about people. It’s very much a part of what I think art can be. Art should reflect the change of society—the world changes around it. And, if the world has changed, you’ve done your job properly.” —Kendall Morgan
The Details: History & Chaos closes at The Goss-Michael Foundation Friday, September 20. 1305 Wycliff Avenue, Suite 120.