Mark Verabioff (b. 1963) is a Los Angeles-based artist originally from Canada, who before moving to LA in 2001, was living in New York where he would perform “guerrilla actions” both publicly and in gallery spaces. In his work, Verabioff develops his identity as an antagonist towards the strong order of power in this country that has seen little change. Combining text and imagery, Verabioff’s work is controversial and symbolic of American pop culture, while also commenting on aspects of feminism, art history, and politics.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did art first enter your life?
Was born on the Traditional Territory of the Huron-Wendat and Haudenosaunee peoples — which is present-day Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The year 2001 was my move from New York City to California. I live and work on the Kizh Nation-Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians Territory — which is present-day Los Angeles. Art first entered my life being a kid looking at the portrait of my mom in our living room. It was painted by Japanese artist living in Canada.
Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies?
Yes. And let the record show prescient warnings still glow from my topical oeuvre.
What’s a day in the studio like for you?
Living in Echo Park with my studio downtown makes the drive to work quick & easy. A day in the studio for me is more about a specific time and that is mornings. After my breakfast bagel, more coffee, cigarettes, more scouring of the internet, scrutinizing over which page tears stacked in themed piles end up getting taped (in an idiomatic manner) like Pin the tail on the donkey onto a vacant monochrome canvas begins. More cigarettes. At the end of the day excitement for the next morning consumes my head because so much of what just got made changes dramatically overnight from the wet to dry.
What’s next for you?
Seeing my next-door neighbor Elisa Kalani go to Ewerhon Market only to buy bleach. Right now I’m editing and designing my first artist book of Concrete poetry to be published SS22.
From where do you draw inspiration?
The sunshine noir of my adopted city of Los Angeles is embedded in the visual and linguistic terrain of my work. Traversing Sunset Boulevard’s snaking path to the eastern extents in Echo Park can cause domino effect, exacerbated by colliding radical politics with pop culture, so my formalist edits and polysemous texts deconstruct and slyly subvert the dregs of our Forsaken States of America. Going to used bookstores is where I find some of my recruits and combatants in fashion photography books from the 70s and 80s. My addiction to magazine subscriptions never disappoints with tearing out new recruits for asserting queer visual insurgency as a position of powerful resistance from which to abolish strictures of atrocities, hierarchy, objectification, xenophobia, heteronormative acceptance, homophobia, hegemonic toxic masculinity, misogyny, patriarchal authority, which all adds up to White supremacy.
Have you always painted in the style your work currently inhabits?
What source material do you base your work off of?
American bullshit, published books and zines, daily newspapers, magazines, archives, oral histories, streaming the internet, art history reboots with diversity inclusion, TikTok, the Gram, anything Gay-adjacent, Moira Rose quotes, diction in Canadian humor, anything fittingly suited for the idea.
Does your work reference any Art Historical movements?
With a diverse practice, my work (painting, sculpture, collage, installation, performance, video) does not belong so much to the contemporary art movement of “Identity Politics” as it does a queer avant garde underground where an artwork’s legibility is forsaken for a more general tone of transgression and anti-authoritarianism. But who is the authority? My work does ‘slap-‘and-tickle intentional jolt not sharing who that authority is (e.g., QAnon or ‘QANON’.) The all caps stand for ‘Queer Anonymous’ and we all know the other. Adding to that, my work certainty references visual insurgency within the realm of descriptivism (e.g., ‘Ken’ and ‘Karen’ White supremacists) and my works direct a darkly humorous queer antagonism toward dominant power structures that continue to flourish in contemporary art, and the culture at large within the Forsaken States of America.
What is your process like? How do you begin a work?
A work begins with research/streaming of the internet since local independent bookstores are dropping like flys from the internet’s double edge sword of being the killer and savior at the same time. Making art is a series of orchestrated actions with intellectual gestures of subpoenaed materials which hopefully will give agency to your outward model testimony.
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you would love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?