Resting Space: The Prophetic Works of Mark Thomas Gibson @ M+B Gallery
It’s both poignant and prophetic to have had such a wide-ranging, in depth conversation for Radio Juxtapoz with Philadelphia-based painter, Mark Thomas Gibson just prior to the pandemic and subsequent BLM protests. Even then, Gibson spoke at length about protest and political satire, growing up black in South Florida and how natural disaster can alter the human condition. We sat together at the Armory Show in NYC as Mark was showcasing a new series of works in a solo booth with M+B Gallery, a presage to his new solo show, Resting Space, with the gallery now in Los Angeles. It felt as if everything he spoke of and the work he was making were precursors to a new era of American history, one where epidemics, social activism, and political discourse would be transformed forever. The themes Gibson references, and the work made with the backdrop of the pandemic are the same issues playing out in the streets across America. The prophecy is no hyperbole.
Key to this intuitive “vision of the future” is that the insightful content in Gibson’s new ink on paper works were made prior to the video of George Floyd’s murder. The details of protestors clustered together, activist slogans, Trump depictions and anti-virus demonstrations are all prophetic, eerily on cue as the country seems to continually change its course almost week after week. And Gibson gets to the heart of the matter: these works aren’t about trending but reflect tangible division and distrust that Americans share even if ideologies don’t match. Gibson pays attention, and that is powerful. Firmly rooted in the aesthetic and storytelling of comic books, Gibson dexterously wields major themes and metaphors, creating heroes and villains, while telling a story that exists in the real world.
“When I conceived of this body of work, the collective ‘We’ were in the middle of the greatest global pandemic in one hundred years,” Gibson said of Resting Space. “During this time, We noticed how little We notice anything. We noticed that We had lost the mountains in our landscapes behind smog-covered skies. We noticed that technology wasn't all what We thought it was cracked up to be. We noticed a disproportionate number of black and brown people were dying from this virus. We noticed the lowest paid were taking the highest risk. We noticed that there were some in the United States of America who were more than willing to prioritize capitalism over human life. We noticed elections do matter.”
Through the simplest art form, ink on paper, or really, the act of drawing, Gibson examines hundreds of years of American history. Like a good political cartoon or comic book cel, each work tells a greater story, encapsulating our country for its reality. “We often have a short memory in this country; but a long history of this grotesque truth is embedded in who we are as a nation,” Gibson says. Each time I put pen to paper, so to speak, it seems that another one of these all too common tragedies has occurred and revealed another irredeemable fracture. There is no Resting Space.” —Evan Pricco