China Marks, who has twice graced these pages with her drawings, words and word drawings, was last heard from when she won a prestigious Pollock-Krasner grant. Well, she took her grant, bought a sewing machine, and shot ahead into unexpected realms of sewing, drawing and word art. Now she has a new show opening this Friday (September 6) at Art 101 on Grand Street in Brooklyn and it’s our great pleasure to present here a selection of the work. Hot off the press, as it were. Or hot off the sewing table. Witty, complex, transformational, hybrid, poetic, mythic, China’s art is a brilliant example of that questing, inquisitive art-brain that is constantly juxtaposing words, worlds, and techniques and coming up with THE NEW. Who would have thought: sewing machine, drawing, words?
Here are the show details.
China Marks, “The Usual Magic” September 6 – October 6.
Receptions: September 6, 6 – 9 pm, and September 12, 6 – 9 pm.
Gallery hours Friday through Sunday; 1 to 6 or by appointment
101 Grand Street, Brooklyn, N Y 11249
And here are some lines from a breathless, excited, ebullient email China sent to tell me about the new work. Nothing like it.
I used a big chunk of my Pollock-Krasner grant to buy a computerized embroidery machine, high-end CAD software and a Windows-laptop to manage it, specialty threads and stabilizers. I bought it to generate text for my drawings. I wanted more than cut-and-paste. I thought it would take a few weeks to get up and running, but was able to create a simple file and embroider it in a half a day and have proceeded from there. Embroidered text has totally transformed my drawings. They are now even more hybrid, much like stories or scenes from a play or a film. By the end of this month, I will have finished my third drawing, an especially prolix and eccentric one, using text I composed and embroidered. As soon as I have it photographed, I will send you big jpgs of all three drawings, so that you can see what has happened.
But there’s more. As soon as the software and the embroidery machine were up and running, I seemed to have a lot more to say. It was as if being able to publish in my own medium gave me a new voice. Three months later, I have an entirely new body of work made up of pure text pieces. I’ve already made a dozen, each one different from the next, and I have just begun. I will send you a large file with images of my last five pieces and an image list. But I wanted to give you a context for what you’ll see.
— China Marks
Fruit Salad, 2013. 33.5″ x 41″
Fruit Salad Detail
Knee-deep in a Sea of Tears, 2013. 32″ x 33″
Fabric, lace, thread, colored stone, fusible adhesive.
Text, left to right: I would have, if anyone had ever asked me to, / but nobody ever did / and I never dared to ask for myself. / Now it is too late / I will die / untouched!
It is not too late, really/but first you must stop crying!
A Foreign Affair, 2013. 43.5″ x 56″
Fabric, thread, fusible adhesive.
Sailor at left: I don’t remember what I told her, / I’d had a lot to drink that night. / Tho’ after two months at sea, / I would have said anything / To get some loving.
But that was almost a year ago, / In another country.
I never dreamed / she’d fly to the States / And make trouble / for us!
Wife, top and at right: You told this young woman / That you lived with your widowed sister. / Joseph, I am your wife! / How could you disavow me?
Girlfriend, at center: You never said / you were married!
Commentary, below at center: The Sailor finally tells the truth, and is surprised / when the women in his life take it personally…
Fighting Words, 2013. 49.5″ x 60″
Fabric, lace, thread, fusible adhesive, silk-screen ink, Jade glue,
glass and plastic beads.
Text left at top: You look ridiculous, / Like a walking trash heap!/ Do the world a favor / And let me tear you apart!
Text at far left: Leave Spotty Half-Pot / alone, Mister!
Text, center top: The Florida Phantom/ a Tropical Terror/ vs./ Spotty Half-Pot/ the Children’s Friend.
Text, far right: Of course I look ridiculous, / I work on / a local children’s show / And the goofier the better! / You call yourself a phantom, when you’re / just a flaming fool / with a cheap map of Florida / for a face. / That’s really stupid!
Text bottom center, left to right: Wasn’t the Florida Phantom / a professional wrestler?
Wasn’t this supposed /to be a real fight?
I watched the Spotty Half-Pot Show / till I left for college!
Love his costume!
— China Marks
China Marks was born and educated in Kansas City, MO, earning a BFA in Sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute. A Fulbright-Hayes fellowship took her Katmandu, Nepal, where she spent sixteen months constructing a major installation out of local materials. On her return to the United States, she was awarded a graduate fellowship by the Danforth Foundation. In 1976, having received an MFA in Sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis, China moved east to make art. She has received numerous grants and awards, including three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Mid-Atlantic Arts fellowship, two George Sugarman Foundation grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, most recently in 2011, when she was also named a Gregory Millard Fellow. Since 1999 China Marks has lived and worked in Long Island City, a block and a half from the East River. Her work is shown in galleries and museums in the United States and Europe. She is represented by the J. Cacciola Gallery in New York
I keep coming back for the palpable excitement of multimodal “levelling up” facilitated by this new set of tools. Wonderful!