When a park ranger sequestered los angeles-based artist Mark Schoening and his 10-foot-tall dodecahedron sculpture between some Joshua Tree monzogranite rectangular joints, inquiring on he and its business in the national park, Schoening could only think to say: We’re just waiting for some shit to land.
Indeed, Schoening was waiting for some shit to land, and it did a few weeks later during a Crosstown Rebels rave, where Schoening’s piece was fully installed (he’d adventured it out to Joshua Tree for a test install) on the balcony of Hollywood’s Music Box, this time with a dizzying network of fluorescent-hued, stringy innards, connecting the structure’s architecture in a kind of luring, psychedelic filament. (Your narrator can testify as such, as he lay on the floor in its center to “optimize” his experience.)
For Schoening, though, sculpture plays second fiddle to his primary talent: painting. And the 30-year-old artist’s paintings, much like this particular rave installation, consist of carefully composed architectural forms blasted into a warming array of energy. “I like the idea of energetic gesture,” he says, enjoying a glass of wine at a bistro on Sunset Boulevard. “I wanted to create these paintings that from 20 feet away had this strong presence of gesture and power. The paintings are based on this theme of information explosions. You kind of control the accidents you play with.”
Interestingly, Schoening, who has a show at B15 Gallery, Copenhagen in December (and who shows at Blythe Projects in Los Angeles), has observed a kind of psychological reversal in his work’s effects—a dismantling first, but then a creation of new information. “I’ve come to notice with the usage of certain marks,” he explains, “the creation of information. I’m ultimately trying to put you into this space of over-stimulus. Text, sound, everything. I’m attempting to convey that in a simple, static, two-dimensional, image.”
This might be best observed in recent years’ work, wherein Schoening’s taken to playing with Xeroxes, which he explains are unique in that they’re made of wax and carbon toner—thus allowing him to place images, such as architecturally-pristine buildings, over canvases, while the paper originally hosting them disappears. “That’s what I’ve been doing solidly for about six years now—extracting architecture, exploding images. I’m starting to layer all that in resin. They are quite deep, physically.”
The same could be said for the Northern Minnesota-born, Boston-educated chap, Schoening, who despite the meticulous talent of hand-to-brush, is a pretty consummately physical guy. He builds, for instance, all day—constructing retail installation pieces with a team for the insatiable, fast fashion mega-horse, Forever 21. For such a tactile guy, accustomed to brutal cold and “angry efficiency,” it took a moment to warm to Los Angeles’ public pathos, its impossible infrastructure. This was helped along by his realizing he could actually create art outside, in a stray booth he built—complete with a spray paint hood and ventilator—year round. Naturally, he couples this cactus-flanked scenario with a classic painter’s mystique. “I think the idea I have of a painter is this incredibly romantic idea,” he says. “It’s the nuance of the late night, a dark studio; I am obsessed with that. I fell hard and I fell fast. I’d have my bottles of red wine and I’d sit and paint in the studio. I think there is something seductive about a splash of paint or the way oil paint moves on a surface. All of those sort of descended, cheesy ideas—they resonate.”