Saturday, April 30, 2016

With Lace in the Limelight

“I loved being on stage.”
Mark Flood

The Houston based artist/musician Mark Flood has been making art and music for all his life but only found commercial success in his early 40’s.

During Flood’s high school years, he was obsessed with art “Making art was just this way of processing my emotions or [that] tried to give my life meaning,” he has said.

Whilst studying art in college Flood developed an interest in Punk rock and performance by becoming the vocalist for the Industrial Punk band Culturecide who played underground venues and espoused establishment angst.

As he told the ANP Quarterly’s Brendan Fowler “I tell you, Brendan, the thing about me is that I like to connect with an audience, I think the audience is a necessary part of the equation, but for whatever reason I really don’t give a shit what the audience thinks. As long as they’re not killing me; that’s my boundary. I feel like you have to have an audience, I don’t want to do stuff in obscurity, but I’m not living for the roar of the crowd. My main satisfaction is just making the stuff.”

To support his music making and his art during the 1980’s and early 90’s Flood work at a variety of jobs that ranged from being a clerk for Texaco to an assistant at the Menil Collection. And his art, like his music, was always seeking the edge as a critique of the status quo.

About which he has said “All my attempts to be in commercial galleries with my art were never very successful. It was always a bad fit… As every struggling artist knows, it’s a bitch and it grinds your soul down to the nub. And yet you have to do it, because otherwise you’re doing your art and just sticking it in your attic. I never thought the lace paintings would be commercial, I had never had any commercial success, but I’d come to see that to keep doing new stuff you had to have a new technique. If you use old techniques, you can only express old ideas.”

Flood’s new technique was to use lace sourced from Thrift shops as part of the process in making his paintings.

As he told the Interview Magazine’s Joseph Akel “I was entirely inspired by David Hickey’s 1993 book, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, how ugly art can exist when you have an art bureaucracy providing an audience. But, for an artist wanting to give an audience otherwise, beauty is one way to do that. That was news to me. And it begged the question, what exactly is beauty? So I started studying, looking for technical means, and as soon as I started looking for it, it kind of popped up in front of me.”

Flood’s lace paintings, that some have called “spinster abstraction” have been a commercial success beyond the artist’s imagining.

And as he told the New York Times’ Randy Kennedy “I didn’t know they would be popular, though people sometimes assume that it was some calculated sellout on my part. Because if I could calculate how to sell out, I wanted to wait until 2000. My life changed dramatically. I no longer need some art professional Standing there saying, “This is good because of Jasper Johns, because of Duchamp,” because someone was coming up to me saying: “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Here’s $5000.” And then I quit my job.”

The survey exhibition of his works Mark Flood: Gratest Hits is currently on show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston until the 7th of August.