Mar’s Warped Drives
Cenotes and worm holes inspire paintings
Mar is sitting in his Marina Del Rey studio, wearing a pair of ripped, paint-splattered jeans. Behind him is the largest piece featured in his upcoming solo exhibition at Art Angels: a 6×6-foot color-wheel whirlpool. Mar points directly across from him to a painting leaning against his canvas-covered wall. This as-yet-untitled piece has the artist’s earliest (and some might say signature) gray-scale geometrics being sucked into a tornado of color. But each shard of pigment, like his earlier “fire flowers,” is wrapped in a thick black blanket—it’s as though his latest work is consuming the old.
“That was essentially the matrix breaking away,” Mar says, “and me seeing the truth. Which is basically just me getting out of my own way. I was trying to figure out this thing that I kept doing over and over, repetitiously.”
While he’s still deciding on whether or not to name his pieces a week before his opening, he’s christened the show “Warp Drive.” The title alludes to worm holes, the space tunnels that bend the fabric of space-time. (“Warp Drive is the vehicle that allows us to travel at light speed, but the only thing that can travel at light speed is a photon—if we were to travel at light speed, we would die. Also we would create a rift in the universe that would tear apart time-space.”) Like the theoretical phenomena, Mar knew these paintings would transport him somewhere, but he “didn’t know where that was.”
The unknown at the other end, and churning of disparate elements, seems to be an underlying current of this recent work.
To create these warp drives, Mar combined his traditional hand-painting with computer assist. These works “started with a drawing and…” he trails off; as he speaks, you can see the concepts and images spinning around in his brain, and he now closes his eyes and his hands raise and he tries, as artists do, to convey what he’s seeing in his head: “Every time I do it, I have an idea of what it’s going to look like—and I can take that further with the ability the computer has to infinitely edit something.”
But this, too, is whirlpooled. Mar wants these pieces to look as though they were designed on a computer but printed through the hands of a human. “Initially, I just wanted to be like an Epson printer that fired off the perfect designs,” he laughs. “But I didn’t want [the pieces to give off] a cold machine vibe—I wanted the feel of a human-made painting.”
Mar takes his name from the Spanish word for “ocean,” which he’s always lived near; he’s a surfer who grew up near places in Malibu the Beach Boys sung about. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that the inspiration for this show was born from water, though not as one might suspect.
Mar’s biological grandfather died in a scuba-diving accident in a cenote. The artist creates a hole with the thumbs and middle fingers and explains how these sinkholes, found in Mexican rain forests, were believed to have been portals to the underworld by the Mayans. “They’re beautiful water that goes to all these varying depths.” While Mar never had a relationship with the scuba diver, he got the weird sense that cenotes mattered to him. The Mayan’s belief that these led to another dimension began spinning about his mind. “Time folding over on itself and you literally are going someplace, what would that look like? A cenote swirling downwards really fast? Okay, time to paint one.”
What Mar painted, he admits, is something “very odd.” Which makes transcoding the images to words difficult. “To describe it as ‘they’re swirl paintings with a bunch of color’ is to do the person describing them a disservice.” Similar to the phenomena the paintings allude to, Mar encourages the viewer to go someplace “a little deeper and a little less surface.”
“Through repetition—repeated colors, repeated patterns, repeated shapes—greater insights can be revealed,” Mar says.
While warp drives and worm holes are the stuff of theoretical physics, and cenotes the stuff of Mayan legend, what’s on either end of these paintings, Mar hopes, is something decidedly human: “Your insights into the work may be completely different than anyone else’s. The paintings are like a bridge between people who wouldn’t normally, perhaps, have a bridge.”
Warp Drive opens on June 8th and runs for three weeks at Art Angels in Los Angeles.