We often use the phrase “the artist is pushing his work further” and it feels like Mark Whalen’s large exhibition I Am Just Here, currently on view at CAC Malaga in Spain, is entirely about that. For his major Spanish debut the artist created a large body of work that is literally expanding, stretching, and diversifying his previously introduced concepts through which he is digging into the complexities of everyday life while exploring the relationships between the object and the person.
“I Am Just Here is a way to relate to daily hurdles and I think a position that not just myself, but everyone encounters,” Whalen told Juxtapoz when we recently spoke about this major institutional presentation which is on view until the end of November. “We are all just here, but I try to find the humor and interesting avenues to materialize these different situations that we all face.” And in order to do so, the Sydney-born and LA-based artist developed a sculptural language in which gender fluid figures are presented in absurd, mostly humorous interaction with everyday objects, and often each other. As they intermingle with such items as pencils, rubber gloves, candles, locks, etc, the viewer is invited to find their course to communicate with them and decipher their state. “Exploring the anxiety, fear, humanity, and humor that us humans face every moment daily. I really wanted to try to find a way to celebrate these emotions,” the artist told us about the drive behind this dynamic yet exceptionally still body of work.
Curated by Patricia Bueno del Río, the exhibition comprises more than twenty works, both sculptures of various formats as well as wall reliefs, all produced exclusively for this showcase. “I wanted to create a very cohesive exhibition so that it would feel a completely immersive experience when you step into it and engage with the sculptures in a vivid environment,” Whalen told us about the way this body of work was conceived as a whole. And by enwrapping the perfectly smooth, plastic-like surfaces of his aluminum and polyurethane sculptures with solid, saturated colors, he is accentuating their artificial feel while navigating the field of familiar emotional states. Speaking about our clumsiness and insecurity, as well as sensitivity and fragility, he converts these emotions and states into entertaining three-dimensional metaphors. “This time I have brought in new processes such as playing with iconic and nostalgic objects, body language, and illusion. I wanted to emphasize these objects in the show by creating hyper real versions of them from aluminum,” Whalen told us about other aspects of evolving his concepts in this exhibition. With exaggerated facial expressions and features, his protagonists are continuing to correlate the absurd and the mundane, this time on a bigger scale and almost cartoonishly more susceptible to the influence of objects and other characters around them. – Sasha Bogojev
Video credit by @roadworkstudio Photos by Edward Mumford, Jeff McClane, and Luke Wilson