"Making things is a process by which to explore a universe out of reach, from within the limitations of our finite form." - Jonathan Marshall.
The past is deep, and humans have been on this earth for 150,000 years in our current form. That is a very long time, yet comically brief considering the "Cosmic Calendar." On this scale the Big Bang occurred on January 1, 00:01, while humankind hit the scene only on New Year's Eve, at 23:52. But even in our brief time here, many things have been lost or are yet to be found.
In ...More Remnants of Futures Past, Jonathan Marshall is presenting us such a find, possibly from a different space, a distant past, or a faraway future. Marshall has created a group of forty paintings, each one representing a different character of a speculative alphabet. In addition to the Roman alphabet still in use today, Marshall has invented fourteen extra letters. Partly inspired by a book of ancient erotic pottery from the Nazca peoples, a Peruvian culture that flourished from 100 BCE to 800 AD, Marshall has shaped every letter as a human form. The panels appear to us as mysterious artifacts that have survived the ravages of time, while also reminding us of the long human tradition of making things.
In an experiment to expand his visual language and make more discoveries, Marshall has created his panels systematically, by evenly cutting up six different types of plywood and applying bases of colored paint and binder to each panel. The idea was to see which paintings wanted to exist. Marshall declares he had very little to do with the process. "They made themselves based on current and past ideas of taste."
Two additional, larger panels look like undecipherable tablets, made up of the speculative alphabet. The alphabet and tablets are accompanied by the insides of two figures. Perhaps the two are visitors from an alternate universe. Perhaps the two were members of the culture that created the future-script alphabet with the extra, un-familiar characters. Or perhaps these artifacts were found and collected by a civilization many years from now, a civilization that sent them back in time to us.
As definitive answers do not exist, and questions are always more interesting than direct and fast statements, Marshall invites his viewers to create their own narrative. These objects should be met on the plane of their existence, while we mediate our own position in relation to them and reconsider the ways by which we attach value to things. In modern literature and film there is a narrative genre called "mythopoeia," in which the writer or filmmaker creates a fictional or artificial mythology comprised of many social, historical, political, and theological aspects. Mythopoeia attempts to answer one big question: How do we make sense of ourselves within the context of the world, the present, and the past? As for Marshall the artist, the act of making things is his attempt to understand his own position in time, space, and culture.
About the artist
Jonathan Marshall was born in 1981 in Morgantown, West Virginia and currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. He received his BFA from the University of Texas, Austin in 2003 and continued his curriculum at the Virginia Commonweatlh University. (MFA, 2010).
In 2013 Marshall presented his first European solo exhibition The Old New World at Grimm in Amsterdam. His work has been included in several group exhibitions such as Skeleton at Museum Beelden aan Zee in The Hague (2015), Mummies at Drents Museum, Assen (2014), Traces at Peter Blum Gallery, New York (2014), Resonance(s) at Maison Particulière in Brussels (2014) and Facing Nature at Museum Belvédère, Heerenveen (2013). Traces of Life at Wentrup, Berlin (2013), Heel Gezellig, curated by Matthew Day Jackson at Grimm(2011), New Works for the Collection at The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin (2010) and Modern Art, Modern Lives at the Austin Museum of Art, Austin (2008).
Jonathan Marshall's work can be found in prominent international collections, such as the Zabludowicz Collection, De Heus-Zomer Collection, The Contemporary Austin collection and the collection of the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art.