The Steamroller Project: Monotype in the Park
I've always loved Wendy Mark's work. Like little Turners exploding with light and energy, miniature worlds unto themselves, her work is unique and sui generis; I can't think of anyone else working on her scale or consistency, or with her sense of the poetic — appropriate, since poetry is where she began.
By 1994, I'd known Wendy for a few years, had followed her career and always did what I could to help out as opportunity arose. As It happened though, opportunity seldom came around since, as the director of the Philippe Staib Gallery in the 90's, I was constrained by the gallery's mission and raison d'être, which was dealing exclusively in and with sculpture.
Regarding art, we had many, many discussions about size vis a vis SIZE and of course importance, and that other art world stalwart, "Monumentality" — one of my favorite chestnuts in my years of dealing with the massive tonnage of bronze and steel that passed through our galleries in both New York City and Kent, Connecticut.
Especially in those late 20th Century go-go years of excess that brought new heights of fame and art world auction money and attention, works of art that were small in size were often all too easily passed by, and Wendy bristled at the slights.
And so, of a Friday evening sometime in the Fall of 1994, I got a call from Wendy Mark as she prepared to get herself to a party. It was a long conversation, she venting her understandable frustrations about yet another gallery incident where her work wasn’t being taken seriously simply because of its size.
I listened, I empathsized, and finally I cut in and, much less than half-joking, suggested she simply do one with a steamroller — address and get past the issue once and for all. The logistics seemed simple enough to me; or pretty simple after sculpture, at any rate. A silly idea; she laughed, we laughed, and off she went to her party.
There, she ran into an uncle who happened to be an engineer and chairman of the Grow Tunneling Corporation, which had dug part of the still-ongoing Tunnel Number 3 aqueduct in Manhattan. He loved the idea, and said he could provide a steamroller when needed.
With that, we wrote up and submitted a formal proposal to the Parks Department in December; in January, they approved an exhibition of Wendy Mark monotypes at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, and so it was that on a sunny October 16, 1995 from 3 to 5pm, a larger-than-life demonstration of the monotype process took place amidst balloons and children and a seated crowd outside the Arsenal in the Park. I can still hear the beep-beep as the steamroller pressed paint onto the 4 x 8 foot sheets of paper, and ever since then, I find myself smiling each time I hear a truck backing up.
Arguments about size and sense and intrinsic value regarding art have subsided a little over the years, shifting with the larger appreciation and popularity of art in the culture, but one thing remains unchanged and certain: Wendy Mark's creations — of whatever size — are fine as they ever were; monumental, as they always have been.
— René Grayre, 2014
© René Grayre All rights reserved