Chris Mars' painting style, examples of which graced his album covers, is marked by nightmarish landscapes and grotesque distorted figures. He draws inspiration from his older brother's struggle with schizophrenia. 'Tolerance' features 160 full-colour illustrations of Mars' unforgettable and haunting artwork.
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Rock star, recluse, brother, activist. Artist. Chris Mars, darling of the Low-Brow movement and Juxtapoz regular. His work graces the haloed halls of museums throughout America and is tattooed on calves and biceps throughout the world. Tolerance, the long-awaited collection of his work.
In the beginning...
Chris Mars was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1961 to parents Constance and Leroy Mars. He is the youngest of seven children. Mars's eldest brother Joe suffered a so-called Nervous Breakdown in 1966 and was institutionalized at St. Cloud Mental Hospital. The impact of that event, along with Joe's life-long struggle with Schizophrenia, set the groundwork for a life's mission of championing society's downtrodden and outcast.
In the middle...
Chris Mars was a founding member of the seminal Indy/Punk band The Replacements. Mars left shortly before the band's the early 90s demise, and went on to record four critically acclaimed solo albums. Though out his years as a musician, Mars was always drawing, painting. Pastels on paper. Ink on napkins. A suitcase filled with pencils and sketchbooks. Always. Calling him.
All leading up to...
Mars' technical control is breathtaking. His Social Expressionist paintings contain the meticulous detail of Salvador Dali, the political incisiveness of Otto Dix, and the emotional gut-punch of Francis Bacon. His work has been exhibited in numerous museums including The American Visionary Art Museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Weisman Art Museum, The Longview Museum of Art, The Erie Art Museum, The Tweed, The Steensland and the Minnesota History Center, among others. Several of these institutions and others hold work in their permanent collection.
Mars hopes his work causes the viewer to question the nature of evaluation and labels, be it by investigating the meaning of beauty, or by casting aside the exclusion of the meek, the forgotten, or the enemy. Like many artists, Mars seeks to know Truth. In his canvases are villains and angels, though one's initial demarcation may, as in life, prove false.Review:
Gutsy in the most visceral way and moral in the highest sense of the word, Chris Mars holds nothing back in his painfully true illustrations of Monsters and Angels. These works require us to walk, single file and for as long as we can tolerate it, along the skinny path between terror and beauty. Well versed in the terrible sublime, Mars has disciplined himself to look hard at the slippage of worlds between sanity and insanity, fear and acceptance, and challenges us to do no less. The paintings, drawings and animations should come labeled "DANGER: EXTREME SELF-REFLECTION REQUIRED." -- Peter Spooner, Curator, Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth
Chris Mars occupies two coveted realms in the art world. Being a consummate artist's artist, he's become a focal point and benchmark for legions of established and upcoming talent in the art world. Also, despite pushing illustrative work into the extremes of the surreal and abstract, he's also tapped into a visceral vein that draws in the erudite as well as the common man with little time for art theory. An envious position to straddle. Few achieve it, let alone with the pure intensity and uncompromising aesthetic ideals. Bottom line, whether his art is placed in the lofty museum halls of fine art, or in the back alley underground gallery, you'll be able to tell where Mars's work is hanging by seeing where the crowd is gathered in the room. -- Tom Hazelmyer, OX-OP/AmRep--HAZE XXL
Chris Mars's work is saturated with emotion. While we are immediately drawn to his remarkable representations--lovely, lush paint and scary storybook settings--it is the content that grabs us. His sad-eyed nightmare creatures look directly into our hearts. He overwhelms our discomfort and forces us to redefine humanity. -- John Vanco, Director, Erie Art Museum
Ferocious and lyrical. Chris Mars finds the complex beauty in those often seen as monsters and the monstrous quality of those perceived as beautiful. The consciousness of our own mortality, which lurks, hovers in our peripheral vision, is here made flesh. In his work, we see the true faces of people, stripped of all artifice. -- Jessica Joslin, Artist
The recent work of Chris Mars lies somewhere between the tongue-and-cheek humor of Richard Price and the debauchery of Hieronymus Bosch. His explorations into the pictorial effects and textural portraiture are spirited with an opening aperture into our own personal demons. Mars's work is a fresh return to honesty in contemporary art...no matter how far down the shadowed path they may take us. -- Michael J. Beam, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Castellani Art Museum
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