Elevating commonplace objects and icons from America’s past into fine art, Robert Mars both celebrates and critiques mass culture with his exquisitely constructed collages. His fascination with imagery and materials from the Golden Age of American popular culture of the 1950s and 60s may not be unique, however, the way he chooses to present these iconic images creates an entirely new dialogue and feel. His work is a feast for the eyes, with his use bold of color, vibrant typography, and striking images, all the while, creating subliminal and not so subliminal messages for his viewers. His attention to detail is immaculate, with the multiple layers, the viewer is able discover something new with each view—even all sides are wrapped with vintage newspaper clippings. All of Mars’ works contain their own title visible textually somewhere on the piece—sometimes obvious and easy to spot, other times it’s a game of Where’s Waldo, trying to scan lines of newspaper text to find it.
A graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York, Mars spent the majority of his life in New York but has also lived in Los Angeles, and Portland. Aside from his personal work, Mars has worked with companies such as Adidas, Element, Old Navy, and Zoo York, as design director. He eventually left those positions in order to focus on his personal work full time.
In his most current body of work, currently showcased at the Joanne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach, it is easy to see he is continuing to evolve as an artist. Most notably, in his “Western Stars Series: Triptych”, a subject very different than any of his previous work, starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Jane Russell (which sold within a day of its arrival). He has also recently started to work with neons, adding yet another layer and dimension to his work—showcased on “Femme Fatale”, a Brigette Bardot piece. The neon typography adds an element of excitement and sensuality with a “can’t look away” factor.
He begins the creative process by sourcing museum quality wood panels and multiple layers of brown paper in order to define the edges and delineate the background planes of color. He then alternates layers of paint and vintage paper ephemera (a huge collection he has amassed of LIFE, LOOK, Time, Playboy, GQ, and Saturday Evening Post Magazines, U.S. Travel maps, and newspapers from the 50s and 60s), sanding away portions of the layers as he works, revealing the desired portions of under painting with the overall intention to provide the viewer with a muted window into America’s past. He has developed a unique grasp on a distinct facet of American history and is able to manipulate the color and wordplay of vintage printed material to create pieces that capture an essence that resonate with people all around the world. His style of work has earned him references to Robert Rauschenberg, whom he also cites as the person who has had the biggest impact on him as an artist. With Mars’ distinct voice and meticulous method of collaging, there is no doubt he is influencing young artists today– and the evolution continues.
Images: Courtesy of Joanne Artman Gallery