mark kelner

artist statement

Growing up in a vibrant and diverse émigré community of writers, dissidents, artists, and musicians, much of my own creative work is fueled by the parallel play of two cultures.  Russian was my first language, though I was born and raised in the United States.  That rich duality, continually fed by anecdotes and yarns, often serves as a doorway to new insights and never-ending observations about life and various tensions between those worlds. The immigrant and, similarly, outsider stories I picked up along the way, are at the heart of my practice. 

My work is the refraction, digestion, and deconstruction of overlapping, if not, competing personal and artistic identities.  I’m almost always in-flux, in-process, and fragmented.  It’s a method that focuses not on static identity, but on the feeling of an ever-changing, ever-evolving cultural heritage and creative landscape, even as the meaning of contemporary culture shifts almost too quickly to crystalize.  My work embraces this tempo, which, in turn, makes me a 21st century American artist.  As a result, the ceaseless process of “Americanization” and “Otherness” now define my visual worldview.

My work centers on distortion of ubiquitous mass – flags, oil and gas station logos, fast food signs, and presidential portraiture, among other touchstones.  It analyzes the intersection of advertising and ideology as claims masquerading as truths that have so saturated daily life as to be little more than white noise.  In protest, I reveal their failings, their exaggerations, misrepresentations, and limits.

For instance, my series “Moscow Made, American Born” explored the duality of my Russian-American identity through the contrast of visual symbols, ciphers, and social systems that defined both cultures and their respective art histories.  In so doing, the meanings of what is American and what is Russian take on both familiar and alien characteristics.  That body of work has since spawned “Centennial of the Square,” an imagining of the consequences of Kazimir Malevich’s groundbreaking “Black Square” (1915) and his Suprematist manifesto as an advertising icon of the information age that proceeded it a century later.  Similarly, my latest series, “Signs and Wonders,” reconciles the ubiquitous and frequently invisible signage, slogans, representations and jargon of everyday life through modest graphic ‘twists’ that pose as fine art.

My practice thrives in a dance with this irony.  Its jarring absurdity endeavors to inspire political and, at times, apolitical interpretations of the mundane.  Yet the story within my work is deeply personal; it is an emotional, unconscious narrative that is at once autobiographical and conceptual. 

selected exhibitions

RED! (exhibiting with Yevgeniy Fiks), curator Dianne Beal, George Mason University, Virginia

Artist Fellowship Exhibition, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Eye Street Gallery, Zoma Wallace, curator 

The Writer's Exhibit, Vohn Gallery, New York City, Gary Krimershmoys, curator

Locale:  Art about Books from the Washington, DC region, Fenwick Gallery, George Mason University, VA, Sarah Irvin, curator

On View:  New Works, Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York City

selected writings

selected media

Article and interview in Khollected magazine, February 2020.

Washington Post, Museums, June 19, 2019, by Michael J. Gaynor

Yahoo Sports, Pass or Fail: Capitals’ Unofficial Rap Anthem is Unleash the Fury,” April 17, 2016
Russian Machine Never Breaks, “Unleash the Fury is Your New Caps Rap Anthem,” April 17, 2016
The Examiner, “New Artists Emerge Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before,” March 25, 2016
The Washington Post, “Pulped Fiction: Transforming 50 Copies of The Great Gatsby,” March 23, 2016
Charlie Rose, in-studio interview, Public Broadcasting Service / Bloomberg, July 2, 2015
Springhouse Journal, “Moscow Made, American Born,” December 14, 2014
Washington City Paper, “Keep Going Back to Rockville,” June 20, 2014
The Washington Post, “The Bard of Rockville Raps about the Pike,” June 17, 2014
Washington City Paper, “Now There’s a Rap about Rockville,” June 3, 2014
Russia Beyond the Headlines, “Turkey and Toasts,” November 28, 2013
The Art Newspaper Russia, Issue No.2, March 2013
The Telegraph, “Russian Underground Art Comes to London,” December 1, 2012
The Washington Times, “Art behind the Iron Curtain,” May 9, 2012
Businessweek, “Washington’s Elite Gather at New Gallery,” December 13, 2011
The Washington Post, “Obituary: Norton T. Dodge,” November 10, 2011
The Voice of Russia, “Kabakov Exhibition Opens at Hemphill,” September 18, 2011
Financial Times, “A Hedonist’s Guide to Art,” October 9, 2010
Le Figaro, “La liberté artistique en jeu,” July 23, 2010
Russia Beyond the Headlines, “Censorship and Sensibility,” July 14, 2010
ArtNews, “Russian Art Roundup: London Sales Yield Uneven Results,” June 23, 2009
The Art Newspaper, “Russian 19th Century Art Saves the Day,” May 1, 2008
Frankfurter Allgemeine, “Wenn der Ribel rollt,” March 15, 2008
The New York Times Magazine, “Putin’s Pariah,” March 2, 2008
The Washington Post, “Drawing From a Within to Reconcile a Divided Self,” December 6, 2007
Voice of America TV, “Close Up: Yefim Ladyzhensky,” September 12, 2007
The Washington Post, “Last Call for an Artist Who Uniquely Raised the Bar,” July 25, 2006
Fairfax Times, “The Art of the Matter,” March 15, 2006
Voice of America TV, “Close Up: Boris Kozlov,” August 24, 2005
The Washington Times, “Synetic Delights Over Hayes Awards,” May 13, 2004

Mark Kelner : Shapes of Influence, 2015 from the series Centennial of the Square acrylic on canvas 20.86 x 20.86 inches
Mark Kelner : Ikon of an icon, 2014 from the series, Centennial of the Square archival inkjet print, exhibition fiber 2.25 x 3.25 inches 
Mark Kelner : Cracks of the Black Square, (Inverted), 2014 from the series, Centennial of the Square chromogenic print, exhibition fiber  5.75 x 5.75 inches 
Mark Kelner : Dedicated to Ilya Kabakov and Quentin Tarantino, 2014 from the series, Moscow Made, American Born oil/object on masonite 27.5 x 47.25 inches 
Mark Kelner : Gogol Chanel, 2012 from the series, Moscow Made, American Born acrylic on canvas 20 x 28 inches 
Mark Kelner : Pravdada (triptych), 2012 from the series, Moscow Made, American Born three archival inkjet prints, exhibition fiber 8.75 x 8.75 inches, each 
Mark Kelner : Post-Soviet Man, (Dedicated to Yevgeniy Fiks), 2014 from the series, Signs and Wonders archival inkject print / collage, exhibition fiber 10.5 x 13.5 inches 
Mark Kelner : So we beat on...2016 from the series, Signs and Wonders 50 copies of The Great Gatsby repulped, ink pigmented with graphite (with the artist) 35.5 x 73 inches 
Mark Kelner : PR_G__S_, (After Shepard Fairey), 2014 from the series, Signs and Wonders archival inkjet print, exhibition fiber 15.5 x 19.5 inches 

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