Referred to as the innovator of “Urban Expressionism” by the former Director of the American Vanguard Exhibitions 1961 traveling exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, Jerome A. Donson, Marcus Antonius Jansen is a bright shining star in the art world today.
“I told him I believed he was the originator of a new movement which I called “urban expressionism” and that I believed that there will be many followers in this new style,” Donson wrote in the forward to Jansen’s first book, Modern Urban-Expressionism. “But there will only be one Marcus Jansen. So I recommend to you art collectors to buy the paintings now before his work jumps sky-high.”
Too late, I think. But Jansen is still a hot ticket item for any art collector today–and for museums, as more of them are taking an interest in Jansen’s work. Not too many artists can boast of pioneering new movements. That is why Naples Noteworthy has named Marcus Jansen One of the Most Important American Painters of Our Time.
We’re not the first to take note of Jansen’s influence. He received rave reviews in Europe, The Tageszeitung calling him one of the most important post-modernist painters in America. And ESPOARTE writes: “A New Star is Born” in a piece by Igor Zanti after his opening in Milan, Italy the year prior.
As Amy Tardiff of WGCU writes, “Jansen explores the contemporary human condition. He may be considered one of the most exciting new painters to emerge at the early part of the 21st century and has created an international following.”
Listen to the interview Jansen did with WGCU before leaving for his London Lazarides Exhibition:
WGCU – Amy Tardiff Interview Urban Expressionist Marcus Jansen 1:00 pm – Wed October 15, 2014
Jansen is currently showing in London, with upcoming shows in Rome, Beijing and New York City. Works are also available at HW Gallery, Naples.
To be honest, we find some of Jansen’s art to be unsettling, even disturbing. But that is precisely what makes his art so important. It reflects an urban dystopia that is simultaneously surreal, reflective, puzzling, and perhaps–though hopefully not–prophetic. With a single painting Jansen makes more of a socio-political statement than many political scientists manage to convey in their graduate theses.
Marcus Jansen’s art may not be what you hang in your living room–unless, of course, you have a lot of class. His art doesn’t fade into the wall like so much of what you see today. No, his art draws you in, mesmerizes you, astonishes you, confronts you, possibly offends you. “I don’t like it,” you may hear someone say–usually someone who doesn’t care much for fine art in general, someone who prefers palm trees and sunsets, and a world where Dorothy clicked her heels and found her way home. Good. That’s the beginning of a conversation. Why don’t you like it? “It bothers me. It makes me nervous.”
Perhaps we should be nervous. Because Jansen seems to have knack for bringing to life the landscape of our evolving global consciousness, that strange netherworld of interconnected icons, movements and expressions laced together with the more fragile strands of dreams; he paints the world we see, even if we could not have painted it ourselves.
Haunting imagery such as the appearance of the iconic Mickey Mouse, sometimes only manifesting as partial mangled ears, and the incorporation of the American flag in surprising places leave the viewer to wonder, and the multiple interpretations possible are what make Jansen’s art so interesting and provocative. Naples Noteworthy thought such imagery made a statement on the death of the American dream, on globalization, on the impact of corporations on the urban wasteland, on the loss of innocence in a horrifically evil and darkening world, on the hatred of the world toward America, on the detachment of the entertainment-focused news media from reality, on the encroaching nightmare of end time eschatology on global consciousness that robs us of our childhood dreams. The fact that the same imagery could be interpreted in so many different possible ways is the key to Jansen’s powerful appeal, and is what makes Marcus Jansen one of the most exciting artists alive today.
He is certainly the Mark Antony of the art world, his opening at Lazarides, London hailed with this tweet by Steve Lazarides:
“Marcus Jansen fucking rocked last night. Now I’m old and even more jaded don’t see much that I like. I like the cut of this chaps jib.”
Life & Experiences
Refer to the Timeline on the right for a detailed chronology of the life of Marcus Jansen.
Born in Manhattan to a father from Germany and a mother from the West Indies, Jansen was educated in Germany and widely traveled the world as a youngster. He had a life-transforming encounter with graffiti art legend WEST ONE as a young man while visiting his native NYC, and began painting and sketching on walls as he took a closer look at the graffiti art movement that was sweeping the globe.
He returned to Germany to finish High School and continued his studies at the Kunstbewerbe Schule and the Berufsfachschule fuer Gestaltung/Design at the Berufskolleg Platz der Republik für Technik und Medien in Moenchengladbach, Germany at the request of his father where he studied photography, technical drawing, commercial painting and interior design.
However, he found the coursework to be too regimented, withdrew from his studies, and soon afterwards began a 3-year commercial apprenticeship as a house painter. While he had no interest in continuing with house painting as a profession, it was during this time that Jansen became familiar with the usage of enamel paints that would later become his primary medium used during his art career.
In 1990 Jansen joined the US Armed Forces from Germany and attended Military Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and served with the elite Airborne Divisions during Desert Storm as one of the first units deployed that August. Jansen spent nine months in the region in a support group where he conducted support missions as well as QRF assignments.
Naples Noteworthy asked Jansen what made him decide to be in the military, and if he regretted that decision or was at peace with it.
“I decided to join for similar reasons that many young soldiers I knew joined. To escape, for security, adventure and discipline,” Jansen answered. “I would say I got all three in a very short time and more than I bargained for. I try to never regret anything I do in life and consider it all a learning experience that assists in my next decisions. I’m certainly not at peace with some of the things soldiers are told to do, that’s for sure.”
“How did you cope with what you were seeing as a soldier?” we asked.
“Coping has to do first and foremost with an awareness of one’s emotions. I think it’s safe to say art can be a tool that helps with that. Either consciously or subconsciously. It is of course likely that my experiences as a soldier filtered in to my sensitivities regarding things like politics that lead others to using the Military in the way it is being used,” Jansen replied.
Naples Noteworthy asked if his military experience was something he was proud of.
“I’m proud of what I accomplish in my life, my children, my family and any positive differences I can contribute to a larger picture. Some of the things we do in the Military would not fall under that category,” Jansen answered.
After his Gulf War tour, Jansen was deployed to South Korea for a year. Upon the completion of his South Korean tour, he spent some time at the Walter Reed Hospital seeking treatment for Post Traumatic Stress from his experiences in the Gulf War. Art therapy was part of his treatment, and, of course, Jansen excelled at this. We asked Jansen when he first knew he was going to be an artist, and whether he knew this as a child?
“I’m not sure if one actually decides being an artist or if this is something that is inherently there,” Jansen answered. “For me the recognition factor was at a fairly young age as I looked for other means to express myself. I found the idea of using various mediums to find new ways of seeing fascinating. My first group exhibition was at the Lever House in Manhattan at age six in the mid 1970’s during a New York City school competition. I painted a lion.”
Something may indeed have been inherently there; the interest may have been there, the techniques may have been explored and the mediums may have been carefully selected. But it wasn’t until Marcus Jansen–the soldier, the newly promoted sergeant, the experienced, highly decorated Desert Storm veteran–returned home, that the artist within seemed to express himself in a way that really began to turn heads.
Jansen opened a studio first in Germany and then moved to NYC, drawing interest almost immediately with his raw, gritty urban style. His success hasn’t come overnight, but ever since his mentor and friend Jerome A. Donson acknowledged him as the innovator of Urban Expressionism–and the world has agreed–Marcus Jansen has skyrocketed very quickly as a painter of interest in the art community.
Naples Noteworthy asked if there was an eschatological theme to Jansen’s work–does he believe we are in the End Times? We asked for his personal underlying spiritual belief and if he believed his art reflects that belief.
“It’s more important what human beings as a whole believe and what direction we choose to take now,” Jansen answered. “It is apparent to me that we are having less and less input in the creation of that larger picture. If some of my work appears as though it is in end times, there may be room for further investigation as to why that may be. Who has taken charge of our destiny and what exactly is the ongoing plan, more importantly are we in charge? My art is raw and contemporary, thus a reflection of our current times that reflect both elements. Good art should reflect the artist’s beliefs, senses, sensitivity and emotions. In too many cases we see it serving as a calculated decorative abstraction designed for couches in living rooms. It is this notion that prompted me to reach for a deeper meaning years ago and a reality that is rarely reflected in the arts any more. Art could be seen as one of the most valuable and pure human reflections we have left and I think it should be handled as such.”
“You seem to be at the pinnacle of your career–awards and exhibits right and left,” Naples Noteworthy remarked. (And, by the way, congratulations.) “How does that feel, and what’s next for you? Where do you go from here?”
“I would like to think of my work as something that continues to spark questions and offer possibilities,” Jansen answered. “This will never end even when the times of excitement may come and go. We have the first Jansen Museum solo shows being arranged in Europe, Asia and the Unites States for 2015 and beyond. I am eager to continue to push my personal boundaries one step further, one at a time.”
Current Exhibit: “Whistleblower” at Lazarides
Friday 24th of October 2014 to Thursday 20th of November 2014
Jansen’s current exhibit, “Whistleblower,” opened at Lazarides on Friday October 24. The above gallery showcases images from the opening days of the exhibit.
As Maximilian Braun of Widewalls Publication writes, “Marcus Jansen is part of an artists group that creates work influenced heavily by modern urban life. His art form is situated between contemporary and street art expressionism. Jansen constantly demonstrates a keen awareness of his surrounding and creates surreal representations from this input. His art reveals a subconscious future that foretells full of consequences. Jansen uses violent brush strokes, changing textures, and distinctive contrast of color that reflect an explosive spontaneity that is the direct and raw effect of emotion. His work always provokes intellectual discourse among viewers, challenging them to see the subconscious. He evokes examination by blurring the boundaries of truth and fiction. The viewer is challenged to understand or interpret where this border lies. The themes that run through Jansen’s work are vast in scope and indicative of his insightful ability to see the correlations that connect them, increasing surveillance, global dominance and genetically modified food are just a few.”
Moscow Museum of Modern Art, (MMOMA), Russia
The Museum Nacional de Brasília, Brazil
New Britain Museum of American Art, US
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, US
The Ulyanovsk Museum Fine Arts, Russia
PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art, Russia
National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Taiwan
Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, US
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Other Collections & Institutions
U.S. Department of State, UNESCO, Paris, France
Steve Lazarides Ltd.
Absolut Vodka, Sweden
Warner Brothers, US
FIFA World Cup TM, Africa
Ford Motor Company, US
Illuminum Perfume, US
Tuskeegee University, Tuskeegee, Alabama
2013 The Fleurieu Art Prize Finalist, Australia, Juror Nigel Hurst
(Director and Chief Executive at Saatchi Gallery in London)
2013 Arte Laguna Art Prize, Venice, Italy, Juror Sabine Schaschl
(Director and Curator of Kunsthaus Basel, Switzerland)
2012 Dave Bown Projects Award, US, Curated by Andrea Karnes
(Curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
2011 New American Paintings cover artist, MFA Alumni selection, Juror Dan Cameron
(Founder Project New Orleans)
2008 8th International Contemporary Art Biennale “Dialogues”, St. Petersburg, Russia
(Curator Larisa Golubeva)
2007 12th International Print & Drawing Biennale, Taiwan, Juror among others, David Kiehl
(Whitney Museum of Art, New York)
2006 Tampa Museum of Art, under/current/over/view 8 Biennial, Winner, Juried by Dr. Jeffrey Grove
(The Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Tampa, FL)
Pre-Conference Art Talk @ FGCU
You are invited to attend an Art Talk with Marcus Jansen presented by Storytellers Creative Arts and InterVarsity Arts Ministry:
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 10 am – 12 noon
Florida Gulf Coast University
The Cohen Center Ballroom
10501 FGCU Blvd S, Fort Myers, FL 33965
Admission is free, but tickets are required and may be obtained from Storytellers Creative Arts, here. This event precedes the Storyteller Creative Arts Conference in Naples, November 6-8, an extraordinary event with over 40 workshops in film, visual arts, acting/theatre, media tech, music/worship, writing, and inspiration, with an Evening of Music & Art that you do not want to miss. You can register now at scaconference.com .