[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]
It’s both ironic and fitting that Marcus Jansen used exterior house paint to create the paintings for his show, “Frontline Report.” He takes material purchased from hardware stores and works it through and through until he “flips it” it into the stuff of wickedly strange interiors. Jansen’s work has been branded apocalyptic, and that’s understandable; he uses paint for picket fences and siding and deploys it to build blasted rooms that are weighted and worn.
If you’re looking for a feel-good moment at the end of the year, this may not be your cup of tea; however, you’d be missing some of the best art Dallas has seen in months.
Dog House is smeared and reminiscent of ashes and dirty workbenches. It also resonates with a brand of despair that’s so eerily drab it becomes mesmerizing. A singular vertical band of aqua becomes a buoy around which the entire piece circulates; it’s akin to a slice of sky, a single and remarkable bit of swimming pool blue. A spotted dog nuzzling a partially deflated balloon emerges as the work’s focal point. However, your eye quickly darts to a ragged red stool and a teddy bear with a bright vest.
Jansen makes sure you travel the entire room and experience the whole loaded space. It’s no easy chore, but it’s more than worth the effort. It’s a world the artist literally rubbed with rags until it burned with the allure of a fading coal.
Another work, Over the Border, is a collection of rabbits with targets on their sides. They appear to be in an arcade formation as they leap over a blue ravine with a discarded tire floating in it. The muted and faded creatures seem to be fodder for gunfire, and the whole dismal affair ushers you into a grim and surreal landscape. Even the sun is blunted by a crisscross of vectors that dampen its light.
Jansen is a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He says that what he experienced in Iraq may be partially responsible for what he deftly puts on canvas. No matter what the origin, it remains a moving excursion into a discomfiting world.