//To get an idea of how Kelly Mark is working, here a small collection of selected quotes by curators who worked with her from 1995 when she left NSCAD to date.
“Kelly Mark’s participation in local exhibitions over the past years has already established her as a contributor to the renewal of critically motivated sculpture in Halifax … The phrase “critically motivated“ denotes ways of working that bring the sculptural object into problematic relationships with its own processes, past art practices, and current modes of experiencing the world … The associated themes of commodity and context, replication and simulation give impetus to figurative and appropriative strategies in their art making. Kelly Mark participates in these agendas while positioning herself independently in the milieu.
Before her arrival to Halifax, Mark’s experience has been shaped by studies and experiences that took place beyond the ideological force field of NSCAD. When she entered the college, she decided to develop her sculptural language by studying painters, avoiding the sculpture studio. Often organized in gridded pictorial fields, her production unites a handyman’s sensibility with resolutely low-skill, low-technology assemblage techniques. The commitment to basic procedures amounts to an ethic. …
With their minimal alterations of found objects and simple representation strategies, the individual works look provisional. Yet, because the “present” ready-made objects and materials, the works are also specific. There can be no mistaking what they are in the factual sense … For informed viewers, the evocation of moments in the history of twentieth-century art – Duchamp’s assisted ready-mades, Minimalism’s seriality, Eva Hesse’s variation-within-repetition, Jackie Winsor’s mutilated boxes – seems equally unambiguous.
What sustains viewer engagement with Kelly Mark’s work is the quality of ambivalence that haunts it at other levels. Several apparently contradictory connotations ae held in suspension by a “both/an” logic. … Mark’s selection of culturally charged artefacts … builds the question of signification into her project. Thus, when the sameness of the mass-produced units and the regularity of interval threatens to drive significance out of the act of placing forms, Mark counters this eventually. …
Mark’s allegiance to artistic strategies of the 1960s and 70s lets her inhabit her work without risking the personal disclosures that some contemporary artists insist on. With its imaginative revision of modernism’s official story, the integrity of Kelly Mark’s work is revelation enough for the attentive viewer.
[Excerpts from: Ingrid Jenkner, Kelly Mark Works. Catalogue of an exhibition held at The Art Gallery of Mount Vincent University, 15 July to 3 September 1995. Mount Vincent University Halifax 1995.]
In 1999, Kelly Mark took part in the exhibition titled “Centrifugal” at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The following excerpt is from the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. “The exhibition “Centrifugal” is a public art project that seriously addresses the environmental impact and function of a busy urban environment on the individual. Curated specially for the city of Hamilton and installed in parking lots, the works in the exhibition offer strategic connections with the rapid movement of traffic in and out of the city. [Shirley Madill, Senior Curator] … “Free Parking was very Kelly Mark. It was a smart play: a combination of the artist’s quick and incisive wit, and a sense of place and economy. Mark thought of the exhibition as an offering to the public and made a work that explicitly realized that. Based loosely on the board game Monopoly, she offered free parking to various people each day of the exhibition – a gesture, an invitation, an outstretched hand to the community – calibrated by her total project budget. The lot was the board, the public were the players, the Art Gallery of Hamilton was the bank. Mark identified the piece simply and subtly, with a small sign fixed to a giant wall [painted with the familiar free parking symbol from the board game]. The attendant in the booth used his own judgment and whimsy to decide who, each day, would receive the small but unexpected gift of free parking. The chosen ones walked away with a stamped stub showing the artist’s signature and that familiar free parking retro car. Most people were delighted.
[Excerpts from: Eileen Sommermann: Walk This Way. Art Gallery of Hamilton: Foreword on “Centrifugal”, 2nd November to 14th November 1999. Catalogue, AGH Hamilton 1999.]
For the catalogue accompanying the exhibition “Oh, Canada – Contemporary Art from North North America” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology” Boston from May 26, 2012 to April 1, 2013, Kelly Mark answered the question “What was your least challenging job?”: “The artist lecture performance entitled “All in a Day’s Work” I did for the DHC in Montreal 2009. I’ve dealt with time and labor in my work since the beginning. I framed the lecture into a standard eight-hour workday from 9 am to 5 pm. I thought that this enduring performance would be strain both physically and mentally, but after a couple of hours, I realized it was quite easy. I had no problem talking about myself all day … LOL.”
[Excerpts from: Denise Markonish: Oh Canada – Contemporary Art from North North America. MIT Press Cambridge 2012]
In 2011, Kelly Mark was invited to an exhibition project titled “head-to-head” with Micah Lexier at the Art Gallery of St. Mary’s University Halifax. The curator Robin Metcalfe edited a catalog to accompany the exhibition from August 27 to October 9, 2011. “Mark, particularly in her time-based work, directly addresses entropy, deliberately going as far as she can go in the direction of repetition, absurdity, exhaustion. … [f. ex.] Mark stared at a video camera until her eyes become exhausted. Her own physical failure became the content of the piece. Mark’s procedures often have the character of a dare to herself: irrational behavior undertaken for the hell of it, but with absolute conviction.”
[Excerpts from: Robin Melcalfe: Micah Lexier & Kelly Mark: head to head. Catalogue of the exhibition held at St. Mary’s University Art Gallery Halifax 2011 and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery Ottawa 2012. St. Mary’s University Halifax 2012.]
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