12 April - 20 May, 2012
Lars Bohman Gallery
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Stay Motivated, Art in an Age of Anxiety

Art is not produced in a vacuum. All serious art—even the most abstract and introspective-- is created in a specific context, intended to evoke an idea, emotion or impression which has been formed in a particular place and time. This is certainly true for Marcus Mårtenson, who employs the iconography of mass culture in his paintings, fueled by a deep engagement in events and developments in society.
In the exhibit titled “Stay Motivated” we meet an artist who is reflective and concerned about the condition of the world around him. His works--which are painted with Caran d’ Ache pastel crayons on -wood canvases-- interpret and examine a society which is fearful about the future.

The connection between mass-culture and art was explored, of course, in the pop-art movement of the 1950s-1960s. Images from commercial culture and advertising were perceived through a prism of amused irony and exaggeration. Many of the groundbreaking artists of the pop-art era were motivated by an urge to revolt against elitist notions of art-for-arts-sake.
But “Stay Motivated,” goes beyond irony. One of the early inspirations for Mårtenson’s works in this show was his discovery of a series of five paintings called “The Course of Empire” created by artist Thomas Cole in the years 1833-36. At that time, many feared that America’s transformation from an utopian agrarian society into a nation with imperial ambitions would lead to downfall and decay.
Mårtenson spent his formative years as a child, between the ages of 6 and 13, living in the United States. Thus, it is not surprising that his paintings include many references to pop-culture and trends in that country: carnivals, amusement parks, casinos, and Hollywood celebrities.
These two-dimensional paintings are as colorful, accessible and amusing as a cartoon in the Sunday papers. But at the same it is deadly serious. There is an element of the absurd in our contemporary obsessions with ephemeral beauty, status and hedonism. An awareness of mortality, coupled with a focus on topical trends and events, sets Marcus Mårtenson apart from many of his contemporaries.
This collection of more than 60 recent works by the Stockholm artist constitutes his hitherto largest solo exhibit. These are bright, visual essays constructed from the flotsam of daily life in the 21st century—conspiracy theories, horror movies, cocaine and plastic surgery. We can recognize the landscape of the artist’s universe and his apprehensions as our own.

David Bartal