Mark Innerst’s Luminous City

By On May 9, 2012 In Editorial Submissions

© Mark Innerst

Last week, the gallery DC Moore opened an exhibit of new work by painter Mark Innerst. These works each carry a unique luminosity, with scenes gilded and bathed in glares of light from perhaps a setting sun in some and raucous nightlife in others.

My favorite works of the exhibit—such as Spectra—evoke light tangled somewhere between intersecting mirrors—light reflected in reflections, obscuring some otherwise unseen dimension roped within repetition. You have seen these patterns perhaps in a moving glass door on Broadway at night, a beautifully serendipitous moment captured and created with diligence and care.

© Mark Innerst

Viewed on a distant horizon, a city skyline takes on a shy and surreal flatness, like a painted backdrop on a movie or television set. But by fragmenting the scene with dusky color and shifting hues, Innerst dimensionalizes the otherwise static scene, enjambing color stories to give the illusion of disparate surfaces together. The cityscape becomes abstracted, a blur—as any urbane city dweller knows the place best.

Subject matter throughout the exhibit ranges from urban to natural; in addition to the cityscapes, Innerst paints vivid portraits of tropical plants. In Subtropic, a forest of palms sitting horizon is diminished by dramatic rolling clouds in the sunset. The ferocious and organic forms are tamed a little by the contrasting stark, hard vertical line of light passing through. The painting works as a diptych, the central band of light bisecting the plane: to the left, a faded view of clouds; to the right, a clearer, more tranquil scene in contrast to the energy rushing from the left.

© Mark Innerst

Innerst’s work seems to be in dialogue with Charles Demuth’s urban watercolors of the 19th century; developing the method of Precisionism, which in turn came from Cubism, Demuth’s paintings featured the city scene fragmented into geometric forms. But Innerst’s method seems more chaotic; on the one hand, some paintings are abstracted so far that the scenes are rendered intangible to the viewer.

In paintings with a more obvious subject, bands of overlaying light seem to mimic the unintentional glare or error discovered in the printing of a digital photograph. In fact, the paintings might remind you of a developing Polaroid photo. Through play of light, Innerst infuses his paintings with a nostalgia that’s much less kitschy than it is romantic.

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