Mark Essen

Eternal Atlas

4 - 16 September 2010

Trade is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Mark Essen.
Essen's artwork has previously included record exchanges, morris men and ambiguous film work.

To coincide with the show is a new text about the work by Tyler Woolcott (see below)

Recent exhibitions include - Meanwhile in Birmingham, Rougue Studios, Manchester, Children of the Reservation - Central Reservation, Bristol, VIDEO PROGETTO- 26cc, Rome, Mark Essen record exchange and celebration - Testing Ground, 176 / Zabludowicz Collection, London 


Eternal Atlas - Text by Tyler Woolcott

If the luminous figure of Atlas first re-entered the popular imagination with Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, as an embodiment of the earnest rationalism necessary for modern capitalism, then the famous Titan's Reagan-era incarnation on the cover of Van Halen's 1986 album 5150, with the equally timeless hit 'Why Can't This Be Love,' seems to eerily epitomize the Atlas-in-an-age-of-excess prefigured by Rand a generation earlier.

Weaving together visual topoi from the myth of Atlas circulating throughout popular culture and classical literature such as these, Mark Essen's Eternal Atlas, 2008, explores the myth's shifting modes of representation through time and different media. Eternal Atlas playfully subverts these representations by adding antagonistic new layers to the Greek god's increasingly Frankenstein-like identity.

What began as an oral tale passed down through generations is transformed into a digital visual experience void of its original mode of transmission - sound and the spoken word. A sense of longing for the past however is kept in check by the artist's light-hearted embrace and appropriation of contemporary visual symbols and references. By substituting the burden of Atlas' heavenly sphere for a large glittering ball, updating the backdrop of the ancient cosmos with a digitally rendered image taken by the Hubble telescope, and putting a sleek professional black bodybuilder in the starring role, Essen's Eternal Atlas is a comment not only on the myth's enduring legacy, but also the slippery conventions that it presents us with. The idiom of male fortitude or issues of race, for example, or the worldly concepts, such as Rand's, that the Titan has been called upon to represent and uphold.

Spinning without end atop an invisible pivot, Eternal Atlas stands not only as a nod to the timeless human drive for collective storytelling, but also points to how our culture has come to identify itself through the myths of the past, and from out of which new ones are continually created.

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