Mark Dagley: looking for a new perspective

Mark Dagley: looking for a new perspective
Isabel del Rio

Mark Dagley: looking for a new perspective. Minus Space, NYC

Mark Dagley: The Mackintosh Variations, 2012 Courtesy of Minus Space

Mark Dagley: (center) The Mackintosh Variations, 2012 Courtesy of Minus Space

From Pitagoras and his mystic group of intellectuals in the old Greek of our dreams, mathematics (therefore, abstraction) has exerted a great fascination on people who look beyond our simple and material realities. Pure forms, basic colors… Where is the center of the Universe? Where is the beginning of our thoughts? Where the first letter which brought reason into chaos?

Mark Dagley (b. 1957, Washington, DC), who is now exhibiting at Minus Space NYC (September 7 – October 27, 2012) has been studying long time the last meaning of a visual artwork. Then, for the past 20 years, Mark has been involving in abstraction and has created geometric paintings that have the ability to induce “psychotropic perceptual experience” and in 1999, his awesome work was included in “Post- Hypnotic”, a travelling museum show which scanned the rebirth of Op-art in the work of twenty-eight painters from the United States, Europe and Japan.

Mark Dagley: (left) Lucifer, 2012. Courtesy of Minus Space

Mark Dagley: (left) Lucifer, 2012. Courtesy of Minus Space

He has said: ‘As far as my work is concerned, I prefer the term systematic painting. The opticality is just the sexy part, the by-product of the real issue at hand, which is structure.’

In his old series of paintings titled ‘Primary sequences’, Mark Dagley only employed a minimal color set and simple geometric shapes. He felt that there was something discarded from the foundation of 20th Century Geometric Art and this was the classical perspective, the great achievement of the Italian Renaissance, the Golden Ratio of those perfect Quattrocento painters (‘The Prospectiva Pingendi’ by Piero de la Francesca or ‘Divina Proportione’ by Luca Pacioli’). Thus, Mark Dagley started with one-point perspective line and gradually turned his attention to the dead center of a square canvas. First, he traced dots in pencil with a circle pattern as one long spiral string and afterwards, filling of basic colors these dots, he created a fascinating optical effect.

These days in NYC, at Minus Space, Mark Dagley is showing three oversized works. In fact, the artist’s largest works created to-date. The three paintings include one matte red and black scalene triangle: ‘Lucifer, 2012’ (acrylic on triangular canvas 134 x 115 inches); one prismatic stained grid: ‘The Mackintosh Variations, 2012’ (acrylic on canvas 104 x 120 inches); and one pale yellow and blue striped rectangle with notched L-shaped holes: ‘Janet’s Dilemma, 2012’ (acrylic on canvas with notched holes 75 x 156 inches). The three large works are exhibited on flat aluminum blocks on the floor and leaned against the gallery walls with a really remarkable effect.

Mark Dagley: (right). Janet’s Dilemma, 2012. Courtesy of Minus Space

Mark Dagley: (right). Janet’s Dilemma, 2012. Courtesy of Minus Space

But, why a scalene triangle, why a grid, why a rectangle with notched L-shaped holes. I remember ‘The payment of Tribute’ by Masaccio at the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, painted in 1425, and I remember ‘The Flagellation of Christ, 1423’ by Piero de la Francesca at the National Gallery of Urbino (Italy). Figures and architectures are distributed in the space in L-shaped compositions while other minor compositional lines reinforce the effect of the Golden Ratio. Furthermore, Masaccio played with colors (black and red) and Piero employed yellow vs. light blue in a similar way to Mark Dagley. What were they looking? Same objectives as Mark.

To live for the art is a long hard life. We should learn of our roots (Renaissance, Op-art, Minimalism or Abstraction) and afterwards, as Mark Dagley does, to take the risk of incorporate new elements, new concepts, new ways of understanding in this current world where design, performance, and feedback with audiences are truly important. Because if you go to see Mark’s works, you will not be indifferent, you will enjoy but you will question yourself: Why these L-shaped holes? Why this infinite prismatic stained grid? Where is Lucifer’s home? What the possibilities of colors and forms? Why abstraction is in the limit of our reason? When did Mark Dagley start to be so free?

If you have the chance, don’t miss this exhibition.

Congratulations, Mark.

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