A. R. T.
Tragic and Timeless Today: Contemporary History Painting
Mark Tansey’s paintings explore the nature of perception, meaning, and subjectivity. Working with the traditions of figurative and landscape painting, Tansey incorporates his expansive knowledge of history in layers of literary, philosophical, and mathematical references. Distortions of perspective and scale combine with his technical mastery to complicate what it means to view and understand an image. Growing up in San Jose, California, with an art historian for a father, Tansey became familiar with art at a young age. This experience kick-started the mental and physical database of visual references that he continues to draw on for his meticulously detailed paintings today. In 1969 Tansey enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where he began to explore the appropriation of mass media, prefiguring the work of the Pictures Generation, who would investigate similar questions in the 1980s. In 1974 Tansey moved to New York and enrolled in the graduate program at Hunter College, where he further explored the ways in which historical arcs could be reimagined and presented in surreal tableaux.