Welcome to the first in a series of artists interviews! Numeral uno being one of my most favorite artists; New York based, pop inspired, mixed-media master ROBERT MARS.
I have been a big admirer for a while and was lucky enough to meet him almost one year ago. Over the past couple years I have passed by DTR Modern on West Broadway and would continuously fall in love with the different pieces placed in the window, but when I saw the skull with the Louis Vuitton background Americana style, well that was it. I had to know more. What I love most about Mars pieces (of course the collage, mixed media style - and the skulls), are the fashion-like subjects from Chanel to the American model, also the fact that he continues to "evolves" producing exciting work that keeps the aesthetic but yet is different and refreshing.
I visited his Midtown West studio a few months ago and snapped a bunch of photos and in turn he emailed me a prime selection of finished pieces with his new neon signature. Have a look at his work and see why he is represented throughout the country and internationally at galleries and art fairs and has top clientele.
On to the interview....How long have you been painting and when/how did you begin?
As long as I can remember I have been making art. As a very small child I always had a crayon and paper in my arsenal along with Hot Wheels car and Superhero action figures.
I think that an artist is not something that you go to school to become but its rather something that you are born with and schooling only teaches technical skills. Creativity does not stop at 6PM and start again at 9am. It is on 24/7.
Tell us briefly about your past work corproate work experience in graphic design. How did you transition into art full time?
Upon graduation from Parsons School of Design in New York I started pursuing corporate Illustration and graphic design jobs which were unfulfilling. In 1995 I was also creating graphics for a New Jersey based skateboard company called Screw Skateboards. I realized that I could combine illustration and graphic design in a creative manner that was mixed with my passion for skateboarding, so in 1996 I moved to Los Angeles and worked for World Industries creating graphics, catalogs, and ads for Menace Skateboards and Axion Footwear under Kareem Campbell’s mentoring. After World Industries I worked as the Art Director for Element Skateboards until they were absorbed into Billabong. I felt that I had done what I needed to do in skateboarding and wanted to pursue a fine art career.
In 2001 I moved to Portland, Oregon and worked a day job at Adidas making apparel graphics and painting at night. It was not until 2003 that I started showing in galleries on a consistent level. Although I tend to oppose the corporate design side it taught me how to run a company, work within budgets, deal with the politics of the corporate world and negotiate deals. After my final Creative Director position for Zoo York Skateboards in 2009 I realized that art was too important to waste any more time on corporate run entities and I quit to pursue art full time. I have never looked back and now have 2 employees to help me run things.
What are your mediums and basic process, in a nutshell?
My art involves multiple processes to get to the finished piece. I start by using handmade cradled wood panels then I utilize layers of brown paper bags as a base followed by multiple layers of collaged ephemera from the 1950s and 60s and acrylic paint. Once the surface has been satisfied I use sandpaper to show a “history”, revealing the layers beneath. My main image is a process of xerox acrylic medium transfers that give a screen printed look with a hand assembled quality. At the end I finish the sides with vintage newsprint and have the pieces resin coated for UV protection. The glass like finish is in sharp contrast to the weathered layers beneath. This is intentional to create a point that these idols I focus on in my work appear shiny and finished but have flaws hidden beneath the surface.
Will you be having a new show in the near future? Or, where can people see your work?
I have no plans for any specific shows in the near future but you can see my work at DTR Modern Galleries in New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Palm Beach. On the West Coast you can see my work in Laguna Beach at JoAnne Artman Gallery. In Europe I am represented by Mauger Modern in London, Galeries Bartoux in France and Vertes Modern in Zurich.
Who and what are your biggest inspirations?
For the creative process I am most influenced by two completely opposite factors; Middle America and New York City. My work from 2000-2009 focused on the landscape of Route 66 America that is still intact. The weathered neon motel signs and rusted old cars. The colors and textures still inspire me but in a more contemplative way. New York City inspires me because it is loud, fast paced and over the top. It has a sexiness and a grittiness that balance each other out.
It is open 24/7 and has every culture imaginable. It nurtures and feeds the creative process.
Which artists are you following or very interested in now?
In terms of who has had major impact on my career I am forever looking at Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Mimmo Rotella. Photographers such as Stephen Shore, Fred Herzog, William Eggleston and Lee Friedlander. I also get inspired by Thomas Campbell, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Ed Templeton, James And Karla Murray, Jane Maxwell, Jeff Schaller, Brandon McLean, Melody Postma, and Llyn Foulkes. I update my blog as often as possible
with inspirational artists and designers that I find in my travels.
If you could paint or make art with any person(s) dead or alive, who would it be?
I have had the privilege of making art with some of my favorite artists in the past. I worked on collaborations with Jeff Schaller and Melody Postma a few years back. There have been talks to collaborate on more art with some of my other artist friends and mentors. As far as artists from the past I would choose Egon Schiele for his amazing composition and line quality and Jean-Michel Basquiat for his raw ability and visual language.
What music do you listen to while painting – or for inspiration?
I grew up playing in bands and have listened to everything from John Coltrane to Slayer and everything in between. I try to hear everything and adopt what I like from each genre. I grew up on punk, hardcore and metal so that remains in the mix. Bands like Nails, Mastodon, Kowloon Walled City, Burzum, Krallice, and Hate Eternal. On the opposite end of the spectrum I like bands like Horse Feathers, John Moreland, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Jason Molina which have more of a place in my studio practice and allow me to focus and keep the music as background noise.
What message are you trying to convey to people in your work?
I want people to understand the influence of American culture from the mid 20th century. The pride and care that went into art, design, and architecture and its continued inspiration in the 21st century. If we continue to learn from this era and adhere to their ideals art will continue to have inherent quality and growth.
The new captivating neon overlay....
A recent acquisition by the Phillip Morris Agency.Enter the studio of Robert Mars:
Of course, one of my favorites!
Among the stacks of memorabilia and magazines to create from...
This is just the tip of the iceberg, for even more information on the artists visit: http://www.robertmars.com.