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Mark Manders / MATRIX 214

The Absence of Mark Manders

February 6, 2005 - April 24, 2005

Mark Manders: Figure with Iron Ruler, 2004; chair, rope, iron, painted aluminum, wig; courtesy of Zeno X Gallery.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

“The realization that life is taking its course, even without you, is an intense human experience; it shows the finiteness of personality,” the Dutch artist Mark Manders wrote in a 1994 text titled The Absence of Mark Manders. Manders’s MATRIX exhibition of the same name will consist of an odd amalgam of sculptures arranged to connote a gigantic living room—one whose inhabitants are missing. A new sculpture created specifically for the MATRIX installation, Writing Machine, explores notions of invisibility and creative inspiration.

Over the past eighteen years, Manders has produced numerous installations as part of a long-term project titled Self-Portrait as a Building, an evolving space through which he investigates the process of thinking. These installations employ everyday objects (sugar, tea bags, a pencil, a toothpaste tube) as narrative subjects. The ordinariness of the objects imbues the work with a poetic tension—things are familiar but, isolated from their original function, somehow wrong. (The installations typically include roughly modeled figures and modern furnishings that have been altered, combined in surreal ways, or reduced just enough to create an alienating effect, for example to 88 percent of their normal size.) Manders makes a physical as well as mental space for the viewer to “enter the world of objects and matter and find poetry in it...and to know how poorly we normally see our daily life.”

While the elevation of the mundane to the status of art object has occurred since Marcel Duchamp, Manders’s sculptures are not mere readymades. It is through his surreal interventions that traces of the artist’s presence are suggested, as if the viewer had stumbled upon the furniture of Manders’s mindscape. The disparate pieces suggest the constantly evolving construction of Manders’s own identity both as a private person and as a public figure, a mental menagerie that has found physical expression in the form of a series of idiosyncratic “rooms.”

If the “building” of Manders’s ongoing self-portrait is a fictional architecture, it is also occupied by an imaginary persona, one who shares the artist’s name and his qualities (“neurotic and poetic”). Manders stated in 2002, “The artist Mark Manders is a fictional person. He is a character who lives in a logically designed and constructed world, which consists of thoughts that are congealed at their moment of greatest intensity. It is someone who disappears into his actions.”

Born in 1968 in Volke, The Netherlands, Mark Manders belongs to a generation of post-minimalist sculptors. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago and The Art Institute of Chicago (2003); The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2000); Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (1998); and The Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1994). Important group exhibitions include Sonsbeek 9, Arnhem, and the 49th Venice Biennale (2001); XXIV Bienal de São Paolo (1999); and Documenta 11, Kassel, and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at The Museum of Modern Art (2002).

Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Art Berliner, Glenn and April Bucksbaum, Eric McDougall, Sonja and Michael Saltman, and Christopher Vroom and Illya Szilak.

Special support for Mark Manders/MATRIX 214 The Absence of Mark Manders has been provided by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; James B. Pick and Rosalyn M. Laudati; Nancy and Joachim Bechtle; and the Consulate General of The Netherlands in Los Angeles and New York.