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BORN 1959 Portland, Oregon USA
Reed College, Portland, Oregon from 1977 to 1982, earning a degree in chemistry
Peter Mars has been the leader of Chicago’s Pop Movement for the past 20 years.
Combining avant-garde innovation with a deep Pop Art sensibility, Mars fuses and confuses the traditional distinctions between high culture and low art. The artist’s sensibilities fall somewhere between Dada and Pop, “in that area where nonsense and popular culture so frequently meet.” “Witty and excitingly of the moment”
– New Orleans Times
Peter Mars began collecting at an early age: matchbooks, comic books, baseball cards, arrowheads and coins. Mars gathered small treasures that tell the story of American popular culture.
“Found objects are fun! I was obsessive about collecting them, ever since I was a little kid. It was a running joke in our family that I never looked up. I was always looking down at the ground, looking for stuff – pennies, arrowheads, match packs, discarded tickets, potato chip bags, agates – always on the lookout for treasure. My favourite part of the comic book was always the back, where you could order sea monkeys and x-ray specs. I still draw inspiration from these things we find in our everyday life, things we see all around us.”
“I loved TV shows like Lost In Space, and Fireball XL5. I particularly liked the robot on Lost In Space. I remember how thrilled I was when President Kennedy came on TV and promised us that soon we would each have our own personal robot and how we were going to have robots to walk the dog and everything! I just couldn’t wait to grow up so I could start to work with my robot. When that didn’t happen, I was sad.”
“While living in New Orleans, I saw a print by Alexander Calder that totally changed the direction of my art. I was drawn in by its big broad flat sweeping strokes of colour. When I learned that it was a serigraph, I said to myself, I have to learn how to do that, whatever it is.”
2010 Trevor Victor Harvey gallery Sydney Australia
Silkscreen combined with hand-painting is Peter Mars’ medium of choice. Mars engages his subject matter in a way that allows images speak to us and each other and in juxtaposition, they agree or disagree, ask questions, emphasize or interrupt, as if in animated conversation. The result is textured, complex, wry and always more than the sum of its parts.
“Right away I loved the feeling of working with silk and ink and that sense of excitement never seems to fade. I love the high spinning sound you hear when you pull the ink across the silk. But most of all, I love that final breathtaking moment when you lift the screen from the paper and the image appears, as if by magic!”
Using the joy and nostalgia that can be found in everyday objects, Mars explores American pop culture, the passage of time, and the icons that each period adopts as its own.
Billboard advertisements with years of old ads peeling through, outmoded wall-paper designs overprinted with modern icons, recognisable typography overlaps young female faces, antique Coca-Cola logos combined with a fresh-faced Elvis – each elicits a multiplicity of American eras and cultural identities. Much of Mars’ work reflects the pop culture of his childhood in the 1960s and 70s, notably the idealised American family, comic book figures, television and space age inventions.
In magazine advertising, product design, and television programming Mars finds a fertile language with which to work. To say that Mars appropriates these images, however, does not capture the rich exchange of ideas that takes place on canvas. These are dialogues, every bit as much collaborations as the work Mars created with notable Outsider artists Howard Finster, R.A. Miller and Wesley Willis and later with Graffiti artists RISK, Trixter and Slang and presently with contemporary Pop artists, Burton Morris, Jeff Schaller and Tom Judd.
“Leader of Chicago’s Avant Pop Movement” – Chicago Sun Times
“There is something idyllic about capturing images from childhood, no matter when your childhood may have been. For me, it was the sixties, and everything felt like Camelot. Slogans meant something, there was brand loyalty, advertising was beautiful; like the flow of the Coca Cola logo, or the warm feeling inside from seeing the Big Boy sign. Commander Spock was an emotionless space man and the unknown universe was just beginning to reveal itself in space travel. Each image recalls an emotion of familiarity and purpose.”
Big Boy, Bird, Buddha, Casper the ghost, Coca Cola, Jughead, Empire State Building, Pin-Up Girl, Spock and Tiger
“There are a lot of super hero junkies out there who are particular to either DC comics or Marvel comics and which has better super heroes. I like them all. My reasoning for starting the super hero series came after the 9/11 attack on our country. I felt as a nation we really needed all our super heroes to reassure us, give us hope and restore our confidence.”
Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, Superman, Invisible Girl, Wonder Woman
“True celebrities are individuals that come to embody American pop culture. They play a role in our culture similar to heroes of ancient times. It is easy to imagine Muhammad Ali as a Ulysses, easy to understand Elvis Presley as an ancient troubadour serenading a Shakespearian heroine, Johnny Weissmuller and Michael Jordan quite literally as heroes of Olympian stature. It is fun to play with photos of celebrities and juxtapose them in unfamiliar ways. For this public figure you think you know so well, here is another way to see them”.
Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, James Dean, Bob Dylan, Michael Jordan, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama, Elvis Presley, Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller)
“This has been a huge source of creative freedom for me. Unrecognisable icons like the anonymous young girl head and baseball player are elevated to the same artistic status as the Eiffel Tower and Lucky Strike logo. Playing common objects and figures up is a cornerstone of Pop Art, but finding the right mix, scale, and colour all set the stage for whether a painting works or not. It is the process as well as the outcome that hold my attention as an artist.”
Baseball player, Birthday girl, Boxer, Bunny, Car wheel, Dog, Eiffel Tower, Hockey players, Ice polar bear, Kick boxers, Lucky Strike, Robot, Santos, Tire, Young boy head, Young girl head.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Elvis Presley Enterprises, as one of a handful allowed to use any of the 60,000 photographs taken of Elvis throughout his life. If I had only Elvis to work on for the rest of my career it would fill my days. His legacy is daunting and a captivating challenge for a Pop artist like me. In the same vein, I have enjoyed working on commissions for The Redwalls, Michael Jordan, and my own endeavours at Ox Bow.”
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Ox Bow invitational collection, The Redwalls
“I often dream about art. Sometimes specific paintings come to me in explicit detail.
Other times, I’ll see an idea for a unique combination of colours. “If you look at the collaborations between Warhol and Basquiat, you will understand what my art is about. In the mid to late 80’s, with the death of these
two leaders, I felt this was my place. Like the trail of bread crumbs left by the advance party, these previous explorers had ventured this far into the unexplained wilderness and the next generation of Pop Artists would need to start from where they left off. I was coming up right behind them and I would start at the end of their trail. This was and is Pop Art.
“Just a carrying on…with the troops continuing to march into unknown territory. As with any military venture…you have to be fearless in order to accomplish great things. “In the early 80’s I met Rev. Howard Finster, the grandfather of the American Outsider art movement, and we collaborated together for many years until his death in 2001. One year Howard did a poster for a show and wrote on it, ‘It is fun to work with Earth’s People’, so he knew how different he was. His inspiration and his enthusiasm for life and art were absolutely contagious. He loved all the same pop culture and iconic imagery that I did…so we related on all of that. Eventually as the years passed, we started collaborating on artworks. “I really enjoy doing collaborative artworks. You never know what the other artist will do, and then you have to contend with it somehow. It is a great way to really get crazy with Art, to push your own boundaries, and to push the other artist, too. Like themfamous “walk-off” scene in Zoolander, the artists force each other farther into free fall, and into territory that is generally way outside their usual comfort zone. The results can be shocking and amazing.”
PETER MARS & ELVIS PRESLEY
Peter Mars was named an official artist of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
Through his collaboration with EPE, Peter has access to over 60,000 images of Elvis from the Graceland Archives, which inspired his new series of paintings to be sold through galleries and to appear on high-end, officially licensed Elvis merchandise.
PETER MARS & MICHAEL JORDAN
Peter Mars was commissioned to create a portrait of Michael Jordan, in the early nineties. Jordan was playing for the Chicago Bulls at the time, along with being involved in numerous business enterprises in the Chicago area. Mars created three versions of Jordan, selecting his final image from the various shots and angles from the proof sheet shown here. Mars lifted the images from videos provided to him by the Bulls. Jordan selected the version with Mars’ signature Coca-Cola logo for his private collection, first displaying it in his Chicago restaurant for several years, before taking it to his residence. Approximately 30 of each head shot was created as an original work by Mars, which Jordan then presented as gifts to his closest business partners and associates. In addition, Mars was invited to attend the playoff games between the Bulls and the Lakers, sitting in front row seats and being admitted into the locker room and press conferences. Mars explains, “This was at the peak of the Jordan dynasty. Here I am, this young artist guy, involved with one of the greatest athletes of all time, who was on one of the greatest teams of all time. The environment around this team and Jordan was absolute intense electricity. I cannot tell you how thrilling it was just to be around it.”
PETER MARS & THE REDWALLS
The Redwalls commission Peter Mars.
The Redwalls commissioned Peter Mars to create the artwork for their third album cover titled, The Redwalls.
Formed in 2001 by brothers Logan and Justin Baren and signed by Capitol Records in 2003, The Redwalls have released three albums, Universal Blues, De Nova, and their latest, The Redwalls. The Redwalls are a four-piece rock band influenced by the music of The Beatles, The Kinks and David Bowie. The Redwalls spent the summers of 2005 and 2006 touring with Oasis, and playing at Lollapalooza. They have performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The Late Show with David Letterman.
PETER MARS & CHICAGO
Peter Mars has lasting art connections to the city of Chicago.
Peter Mars & “Cool Globes”
Newsweek magazine March 19, 2007 issue, Trotting Out Globes
Chicago: Globes for Global Warming
In 1999 Chicago plunked hundreds of life-size cow sculptures on its sidewalks, just for fun. This summer the Windy City will showcase 100 five-foot globes, but with a purpose – each illustrating a different way to reduce global warming. A huge knitted sweater will cover a sphere called “Turn Down The Thermostat.” Autographed shoes from athletes like Magic Johnson will festoon a “Use Your Feet” globe. “I didn’t want to focus on gloom and doom,” says Cool Globes founder Wendy Abrams. “I wanted to focus on solutions.” Peter Mars was later commissioned by the “Cool Globes” founder to create a second globe promoting a bipartisan position on global warming.
Suite Home Chicago
Chairs on Parade? It’s the latest in summer street art.
Two years after Cows On Parade won worldwide media attention for Chicago, the city installed “Suite Home Chicago” – a series of 350 pieces of life-sized sofas, chairs, ottomans and televisions, decorated by more than 150 Chicago area artists.
Cows On Parade
Mayor Richard Daley called the Cows On Parade project “the single largest and most successful event in the history of Chicago.” Peter Mars’ cow was sponsored by Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and was auctioned off at Chicago’s Navy Pier at a benefit for the Make A Wish Foundation. “The most fun part of my Cow experience is that she was purchased by a very proud Irish lady, who sponsors a float in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. So every year the Cow rides on her own float in Chicago’s St. Patrick Day Parade, one of the largest parades in the US.”
Peter Mars is the chairman of the juried art auction for the annual Inspiration Corporation benefit. Inspiration Café is a non-profit organisation founded by former police officer Lisa Nigro, who in 1989 borrowed a red wagon, filled it with coffee and sandwiches and pulled it around the Uptown neighbourhood of Chicago offering dignity and respect to the homeless men and women she encountered. Inspiration Corporation has grown to serve 2,500 individuals a year by providing meals, supportive services, housing, employment preparation and vocational training.
PETER MARS & OX-BOW
Peter Mars – Artist In Residence at Ox-Bow
In 2009, Mars was awarded an Artist Residency at the prestigious Ox-Bow School of Art. With close ties to the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow provides an inspiring haven for visual artists, writers, and thinkers. A residency at Ox-Bow gives the professional Artist time to re-charge, re-think and re-invent, all within what can be an explosively creative setting.
Other notable artists who have been in residence at Ox-Bow:
– Jim Henson
– Joan Mitchell
– LeRoy Neiman
– Claes Oldenburg
– Ed Paschke
– Stanley Tigerman
PETER MARS & CARROLL SHELBY
Carroll Shelby, one of the greatest race car drivers of all time and legendary automobile designers, asked Peter Mars to create a group of paintings featuring some of the most famous Shelby Racing Designs.
The completed Peter Mars paintings were then autographed by some of racing’s most prominent drivers including Shelby himself, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney. Fans who attended the event could acquire the autographed artworks and meet with the drivers. Carroll Shelby is the designer of many of the most successful and beautiful cars of the era, most notably, the 427 Shelby Cobra, the Shelby Mustangs, and the Dodge Viper. His design for the 1965 Shelby GT350 Ford Mustang is to this day regarded as a remarkable example of iconic American Muscle Car design, and all Shelby cars are highly prized by collectors and race fans alike. The Shelby designs were a perfect match for the art of Peter Mars with an icon of racing and auto design.
Carroll Shelby was so impressed by Peter Mars’ paintings that he requested one be donated to benefit his Children’s Foundation. The charity provides financial assistance to children in need of organ and tissue transplants or acute cardiac disorders and promotes the importance of organ and tissue donation.
Following years of heart-related difficulties, legendary racer and automotive manufacturer Carroll Shelby met his biggest challenge. He received a life-saving heart transplant and made the pledge to help save the lives of children who share many of the same afflictions. “When I was lying there in the hospital awaiting my heart, two boys on either side of me passed away because they did not receive a transplant in time. So I made a deal
with the big man above, and if was to receive a heart and survive, I would do whatever I could to help out those who were less fortunate.” “So along with friends and family, I created the Shelby Children’s Foundation. We have helped a number of youngsters to get the medical attention they needed to live. I am proud of this foundation and the help we have given. I am also so thankful to the fans of my cars for helping in this race.”
Peter Mars & Artistic Bombing Crew (ABC)
ABC is an old school Chicago Graffiti crew that has its roots in the early 80’s Hip Hop movement in Chicago.
Mars speaks about Artist Bombing Crew and Keith Haring. “We all knew Keith at various points in time and Risk did some art with him. Haring was a nice guy for real. Two of my young graf artists idolized him. One time, he went home with them to eat dinner and sit down and visit with their mama, at the kitchen table. He stayed half the night, drawing doodles with them. They were blown away!” “Not stepping in front of the camera with Haring was a mistake. But I was so young and naive, had no thought at the time what these things would come to mean years later. Stuff seemed permanent back then – like it would always be there.”
Peter Mars’ work appears in galleries from coast to coast and can be found in the collections of:
Carroll Shelby’s Children Foundation
The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert
Fusing and confusing the traditional distinctions between high culture and low art, celebrated American pop artist, Peter Mars, turns his unique interpretation of popular culture to one of the greatest pop culture icons of all time, the singular Elvis Presley. Continue reading
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Harvey Galleries was founded by the Harvey family in 1994 with an eye to establish a dynamic and inclusive contemporary art space on the North Shore of Sydney. For almost three decades we have expanded our reach to over three gallery locations and an ever expanding stable of the best artists Australia has to offer.
Harvey Galleries acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which our galleries stand. The Guringai people (Seaforth), the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation (Sydney), and the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation (Melbourne).
We pay our respect to Elders past and present.
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