Despite heavy crowds and hurrying passersby, sidewalks that line cities all over the world can feel like lonely places. But for Mark Jenkins, American-born sculptor and installation artist, public spaces, whether urban or not, are playgrounds for the imagination. Concurrently, in a 2008 interview with Brian Sherwin, Jenkins stated, “…it’s good for people to remember public space is a battleground, with the government, advertisers and artists all mixing and mashing…” Where advertisers and governments may fight to sell their products or gain the acceptance of their constituents, Mark Jenkins constructs sculptures whose subtle narratives represent the way in which the mind interacts with its environment. Using clear packing tape to construct his figures, Jenkins sculptures explore their environments as aware, self-conscious and conversational entities.
By installing multiple horse figures across a wooded space in Fairfax, VA Jenkins transforms a forest into a carousel. In these photos of his work, Jenkins sculptures are playful, bridging the gap between the unknown– “how did this sign bend?”– and the known. His imaginative installations request their viewers to stay aware of their surroundings.
Both in nature and in man-made spaces anonymity and ambiguity persist. Jenkins’ sculptures embrace these qualities and suggest that by searching for meaning in what we can otherwise admit to being unknown, can cause us to miss the spectacular absurdity of public spaces.
Jenkins sculptures are dynamic, some inspiring humor and others contributing to the brutal drama of the pedestrian landscape. The photo above depicts the self-conscious element of Jenkins work. A newspaper-man made of newspaper brings to mind the colloquialism, “you are what you eat,” exhibiting how the result of over-consumption (in this case a “news junkie”) only contributes to the lack of meaning that clouds public spaces.
By pointing out absurdities and the quagmires of meaning holding us afloat, Jenkins’ work instills a sense of responsibility in the viewer for the fact that our environment, even if we try to ignore it does affect us.
The placement and construction of Jenkins’ work makes the figures interactive and has the power to inspire activism. In 2008 Jenkins collaborated with Greenpeace constructing bear-headed people sculptures and placing them around Washington D.C. When asked about this collaboration Mark Jenkins responded that, “The result, bomb squads destroying the works, was unexpected and ironic considering the polar bears plight. You could say the project backfired but the media attention it generated gave Greenpeace a platform to speak about the arctic ice issues.”
When it comes to public spaces Mark Jenkins’ sculptures participate in a conversation with their spectators, a dialogue that tosses around ideas about how we interact with our environments. And ultimately, Jenkins’ work speaks eloquently among the noiseless chatter that is ever-present in public squares, parks and sidewalks.
Article by: Mary Smith