Marjorie Van Cura
I have found the exemplar of a contemporary artist working with complexity in Marjorie Van Cura, who makes drawings inspired by and culled from real time events and their satellite suggested optics.
Van Cura is one of a limited number of artists I have encountered who have access to internet based information dramatized by real life events, and not only informed by information systems and methods of documentation available through projective media, but have used it to create new forms of art.
Van Cura culls a variety of images from newsworthy events that may include natural disasters, man-made accidents, and social protests. She then completes an aesthetic examination of each photograph, mining it for certain visual structures that could be said to underlay the structure of each image, and she then undertakes a ghost tracing of these structures, creating sequential traces from each image until she has collected a rich aggregate of abstract forms.
What Van Cura brings to her practice is a measure of restraint that manifests as a reductive aspect in the selection of forms. She pursues a variety of scenarios in which tragedy has transformed the everyday, prosaic appearance of ordinary locales, which she then mines for the multiplicity of possible vestigial tracings to inform a diverse and polymathic vision that expands upon our comprehension on the making of expressive marks.
Even though her work utilizes source material culled from technology, her process relies upon touch, gesture, and intuition. Her tracing of the suggested contours of images that are photographic in content—finding forms within commonplace scenes—creates a layer of form which, drawn on sheets of matte Duralar, can then be used to accrue meaning. Sometimes meaning can be extended with the use of a material proficient enough to facilitate production. The Duralar is reliable, creating a surface that is also a support for the drawings, whether in ink or graphite. What I have found over time, is that an artist tends to rely upon a surface not only as a means of support but as part of the medium, and ultimately the meaning of the work. Not only can a reliable surface material facilitate an ease of application, but it can also allow the artist to more immediately realize the direct purpose of their work.
The artist follows not only their own imperatives but also those dictated by history and by what they see around them, which is also to say because of market demand. It would be foolhardy in an environment such as New York to assume that what is evident is merely the myriad aspirations of a specific geographic community because all of these artists came to New York to ostensibly ‘make it’ and their signature styles are each a way of achieving that goal. Each artist’s vision is personal and idiosyncratic while at the same time representing an aesthetic strategy to achieve art world stardom.
Uniqueness is its own reward.
A body of work that partially completes this selection was featured in her Fall 2021 online exhibition Crossing The Line which [presented] scenes from the January 6th attack on the Senate during the counting of the 2020 Election votes as a backdrop from to draw formalist inspiration. Van Cura's work establishes a new way of using abstraction to reflect historical events and the ‘optics’ we give them. People in ideological conflict with one another, banners and fists raised, marching and dashing into the history books. We read in these images the story of humanity, of the necessary change that presages progress, and we are made to feel the weight of the moment just as we thrill to her formal mastery in color and form.
From Van Cura's early 2022 solo exibition "Can't Look Aaway" at DFN Projects in New York, the author of its catalog essay, Valentina A. Spalten writes: "Marjorie Van Cura is driven by the ever-evolving realities of the present day. The culmination of thirty years of painting, Van Cura’s recent landscape-based abstractions are inspired by pivotal moments in contemporary history as represented by an inescapable ubiquity of mass media. Deeply impacted by environmental and sociological phenomena that continue to transform humanity, Van Cura pinpoints real life current events-based images that are striking in both conceptual paradox and aesthetic complexity, using them as a departure point for her densely-layered paintings. These works distill the familiar yet alarming urgency of the moment into a language that is graphic and expressionist, in order to create an entirely new and foreign space"
Please contact David Gibson of Gibson Contemporary LLC if you would be interested to exhibit this daring and unique contemporary artist, or find a place for her work in any surveys of new art. Contact form is at bottom of each page.