Written by Dulcinea Circelli.
It’s after dark at The Hive Gallery and Studios on a Sunday night. The whole place is empty and quiet except for the moaning of the exposed old pipes that crisscross the ceiling.
In the heart of the gallery, spotlights near the bar illuminate the ghostly figures in Mark Posey’s latest portrait series. This quiet night at the museum is the best way his work should be viewed. If you’re brave.
The paintings hanging in Mark’s section are the foreboding shades one would see in an occult room full of smoke, if one had imagination—connections with the afterworld, or a little absinthe on the brain.
In one portrait titled Judgment, the form of a man’s cheekbones, forehead, and nose is suggested in translucent white oils and resin over a black under-painting.
A blue-toned negative image, Blue X, “aims to reveal another side of humans that remains a mystery; thoughts,” according to Posey. When you shine a light through the back of Blue X, a formerly hidden message reads, “See it through see it through see it through.”
Posey’s latest series is a dark departure from an impressive portfolio that captures a sweet spot between the abstract and the representational. He produces paintings that appear splattered, melting, and random, yet still come across as familiar.
With a brilliant mastery of color, Posey paints subjects as diverse as hallucinatory still lives of flowers and fluid-form portraits of Jackson Pollock and others rendered in life-like flesh tones. He also re-imagines classic American paintings such as American Gothic and Whistler’s Mother. Imagine dropping acid, then watching Mother’s face melt off.
How did Mark Posey develop his unique painting style, and how did he find his way into the art world? On a steamy L.A. summer afternoon, we asked Posey a few questions about his work, process, and influences as an artist to find out.
FORTH: What is the inspiration for your recent work at The Hive Gallery?
Posey: That series of paintings is one that I made to satisfy my urge to create dark art. I had been given the challenge by Nathan [Cartwright] to make a painting portraying [the Tarot card] “Judgment” and I knew I wanted it to be dark.
Most of my art is pretty colorful, so to be given the assignment to make something darker was very welcome. After a few days of experimenting, I learned some new techniques and produced that painting.
FORTH: In reference to the painting Blue X, what does the hidden phrase, “See it through see it through see it through,” mean?
Posey: That painting is based off an X-ray negative of my face, and the concept for that piece was pretty fun. I was thinking, what if X-rays could see thoughts, too? So I put that message in the painting because it’s something I think all the time while creating work.
It’s a “You’re not a failure until you give up” sort of message. I thought it would be fun because the paining is see-through, so it’s also a play on words.
FORTH: How has your melting, abstract-meets-representational style evolved since you started your career?
Posey: Great question. I have been incorporating a lot of new materials into my work. It started off with mainly acrylic, but I have added a lot of spray paint and oil paint as well.
Diluting paints and saturating paints offer an incredible amount of possibilities that I’m still learning about to this day. I think since starting this style my taste in art has become a bit more refined, so my paintings have become simpler, and in my opinion more tasteful.
FORTH: In what ways has art school and your background in history informed your work?
Posey: Art school was such an important part of me becoming the artist I am today. The most important thing I learned in art school was to make genuine art.
I am not the type of person who can sit down with a one haired brush and meticulously paint a reproduction of a photograph. I tried that for a while and eventually thought to myself, who am I kidding?
So, it was the realization that art needs to reflect the nature of the artist that led to my style, which, in my opinion, is a reflection of exactly who I am as a person. Without art school, I think I would still be trying to paint in a style that just doesn’t suit me.
FORTH: When did you realize painting was going to be your way of life?
Posey: I have always been into art, but I never took it too seriously until 2008. Prior to that, I was always sort of the artist guy in my circle of friends, even though I wasn’t painting every day.
I think it was only when I started getting shows and selling work that everyone else actually started referring to me as “The Artist.”
FORTH: What’s going on in your studio right now?
Posey: Oh man, lots and lots of flowers. I have been painting bouquets for months now. It’s one of those things where I painted one that turned out pretty good, so then I painted another one that turned out even better, so I painted another… I have no idea how long I’m going to be making flower paintings. I’m just riding the wave right now.
Blue Bouquet with Pear
FORTH: Do you have any advice for very young emerging artists starting careers in the Downtown Los Angeles art scene?
Posey: Be irreverent, be humble, and be hungry.
If Posey continues painting the lush, saturated works that he’s known for in years to come, his collectors and fans will never go hungry.