Mark Whalen‘s sculptural work turns the medium on its head – somewhat literally. The Australian-born, Los Angeles-based Whalen constructs fun, somewhat absurd works that evoke human qualities while at the same time contorting its likeness. With an obvious sense of humor, Whalen’s works lament the human experience and all that comes with it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from initially, and when did art first enter your life?
Originally from Sydney, Australia, and now based in Los Angeles. Luckily, art has always been in the background as a significant personal force connected to skateboarding, friends making art, traveling, and contributing to the fine arts during my early years as a designer. That gave me the confidence to pursue art making full-time.
Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies?
Physical space has always been one of my favorite pursuits. What happens when you attend an exhibition at a gallery or museum? Is the exhibit space transformative? Experiential? Can you describe the experience as radical or unexpected? For me, the canvas has not been nearly enough, and I have often felt the “canvas” needed to transform itself into a sculptural object featuring dimensional components playing outside traditional conventions. Maybe, even upgrading my contemporary beliefs…? I work hard at this every day, and continually streamline and simplify how I make objects. Over the years, my process features daily experimentations of color, form, method, and concept. I guess this is why these pieces have always taken so much longer to create from start to finish. It seems like an oxymoronic take, Right?
Your work takes on various mediums. Is it important for you to consistently change up what it is your working on? How does your range of medium influence one another?
My work presents an illusion. Ambiguous human forms become mixed up in a stack of everyday objects made out of cast-aluminum.
The medium is a major participant and shares a complementary relationship with iconic human forms, colors, and chromed objects. Each finished aluminum sculpture is a harmonious stacking of disturbances, problems, and provocative questions about life and beyond. Each sculpture is an invitation for the viewer to participate in the physical, travel around the object, and add to the ongoing narrative or ask more questions. The more outrageous, the better, haha…
What’s a day in the studio like for you?
I like to get going pretty early in the morning. Travel to my studio in the heart of the industrial soul of Los Angeles, and get to it. Most days are spent musclin’ with multiple objects needed for each sculpture. This year has been spent relocating studios, installing industrial equipment, and evolving new sculptural configurations, aka stacks.
What other artists working today most inspire you?
Great question. There’s a lot of inspiration all around Los Angeles, and just walking in and around the studio. It’s incredible how years in the game things start to stack up in there. There are bins and boxes of leftover pieces, abandoned objects, and raw material pile-ups, figurative forms. There are times, I pick something up out of these bins and see something new, head home and work it out. In relationship to artists that inspire me, Austrian artist Franz West, and the way he builds unconventional forms. Erwin Wurm is another great artist who creates and performs one-minute, illogical compositions that are both humorous and bold. With both of these artists, I admire how they create work with the intent of unexpectedly interacting with their audience.
What’s next for you?
Currently, working on art fairs and a new solo exhibition in 2020. My gallery, Over the Influence, and I are working on a new monograph, “Ramble Ramble,” that features 112 pages or so of the collection presented earlier in the year with the same name. For me, its all about creating and staying focussed to see where everything goes.