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Art and politics interact in the work of Mark Moleski

Mark Moleski in studio, india ink and collage works on paper
Mark Moleski in studio, india ink and collage works on paper
J. Kronika

Consistency of the silhouette marks the India ink and collage works of Mark Moleski. The artist works with themes of politics, contemporary life and fashion. Within this style, Moleski has created several series including Shoes, Furniture and Untold Stories. He also has new works in process incorporating people in poses of exercise or depicting cycles of society via collage in the form of tumbling leaves. Moleski has a background in graphic design and fine art. The influences of graphic design blend with the sensibilities of fine art elements and textures. Moleski says of his media,” the manageability of India ink and its uncontrollable results” allow for a comfortable chaos, while the control of collage introduces crisp edges and social commentary. The fusion of the controlled graphic elements, contextual thematic, textural fluidity and expressive qualities of the painterly ink handling set this work apart.

Some of Moleski’s works show touches of whimsy, such as those in the series Shoes and Furniture. The former, Shoes, plays with the color and palette of magazines for its collage. The works utilize images within the image, thus the viewer will find the shoes whose silhouette is depicted within the collage. In two works from the Furniture series, the artist plays with context. In Moon Birds, four chairs become “kooky characters” in an ambiguous space. While Cave Dweller, incorporates the design of Phillip Stark’s ghost chair removed from its context and rearranged, so it becomes personified.

His Untold Stories series evolved from student paintings involving the shadow or silhouette. These medium scale works on paper feature collections of figures upon landscapes, abstract and symbolic backgrounds. Some of the works incorporate soft hints of color. These stories reflect upon the fact that the media often tells a one-sided tale. Clipping from the newspaper, Moleski selects a fragment of a story, wherein a photograph occurs. From this photograph, he claims the silhouette of figures, and then he re-groups them to tell a new story. The viewer can find a part of the original photograph within the final image.

The titles are based on altered meanings of terminology. For example, in soccer, the term Dangerous Play refers to the act of risking injury to an opponent with a reckless or clumsy challenge. In context of the works of Moleski, the title and the clippings employed refer to larger conflicts around the world. In this work the conflict is conveyed and depicted in the form of soccer player’s silhouettes. Faded Glory is composed of clippings about deaths of members of the military. Into the background the artist has depicted soft sweeps of the American flag’s colors. The artist’s colors suggest that by these deaths, the flag’s potency is faded and shredded. Moleski draws attention to the significance of American freedoms that are impacted by war and the losses of life.

Moleski’s recent works have transitioned to even more focused political statements. During the October exhibit, timed to coincide with Artist’s Month, the artist presented a series based on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company’s advertising campaign, designed to claim responsibility for “Making it Right,” are full page ads which Moleski uses for his collage elements. Each work depicts animal, water fowl and marine life affected by the spill. The gloss and matte surfaces in India ink correlate to the oil spilled and poisoning the water. The BP logo is placed where the creature’s eyes would be. This is how the ad is incorporated in the diving bird in the work We Will Make It Right. In Plankton, the centers of the cells are depicted with the logo.

Returning to some of his early silhouette paintings of wrestlers, led the artist to elaborate upon the forms of taut effort at exercise in the series of sports works in progress. His silhouettes in this series no longer use the collage element. Instead they take the place of the darkness while the backgrounds are swirling patterns and designs. The first four, which hang in the artist’s studio, depict male figures while the designs balance the masculinity with floral and feminine patterning. Moleski plans to produce counterparts with female figures and masculine designs. This ongoing series juxtaposes the variations of figure, gender, and stylistically gendered design.

In the series which focuses on the cycles of life, the leaves depict and represent pieces of the context. In one work the focus is on fashion and style. Two others focus on themes of pattern and travel. A large work charts the tradition of depicting the female nude in art. The leaves cluster or stray from a tumbling spin, their colors and patterns drawing the eye in.

Moleski is an artist in residence at the Coalition Gallery at the Merchandise Mart. This position, originally a six month residency, has been extended another six months for Moleski and his fellow resident artists. Through the efforts of Pepper… of the Chicago Artist Coalition, and the Merchandise Mart staff, the gallery and the artist studios in suite 1562 diversify the offerings at the Mart. The collaboration has thus far introduced a new element of fine art and offered a few dealers the opportunity to incorporate pieces from their showrooms into the gallery environment. The artist is generally in the gallery Monday to Friday, from nine a.m. to six p.m., working in the studio. The current exhibit, including Moleski’s works on the oil spill remains up through October 2010.

For more information:

Mark Moleski:

Chicago Artists Coalition :

The Chicago Artists Coalition Residency Open House:

Merchandise Mart Coalition Gallery:


  • priscilla james 4 years ago

    i have been to the studio of mark moleski. his interpretations of his art form was very interesting. mark told the stories so well and his work is outstanding. marks genuine personality shows in his work. an artist certainly to be recognized.

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