The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 16: ASSASSINATION: Mark Dutcher, Artist Represented by Steve Turner Contemporary

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Mark Dutcher in the studio. Photograph courtesy of Mark Dutcher.
Mark Dutcher: Havilah, 2008, oil, acrylic, spray paint, and glitter on canvas and wood, 65 1/4 by 133 inches. Image courtesy of Mark Dutcher and Steve Turner Contemporary. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer.

Mr. Mark Dutcher, who is one of the most friendliest artists I have met, is a rather brilliant painter and installation artist who can combine a cutting-edge aesthetic with a sense of repeated pattern that goes beyond the merely decorative. With abstraction being such an easy path for many artists, this artist has been able to reflect the vibrant nature of Los Angeles lifestyles with a driving sense of the spiritual reflectiveness which is rare within contemporary art.

Dutcher uses the vocabulary of lines, circles, squares, crosses, and other symbols to express a sense of the complexities of life itself. Like a shaman, he is able to extend his painterly mysticism into the domain of sculpture as well as larger installation pieces. The viewer gets a sense of the laid back nature of this man, whom I admire rather deeply.

If you have any questions about Dutcher’s artwork, feel free to contact his gallery Steve Turner Contemporary at (323) 931-3721 or at

So on to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: As you are represented by Steve Turner Contemporary now, what have your experiences with the gallery system been like?

Mark Dutcher: i like working both within the gallery system and doing projects on my own. i used to curate shows in U-haul trucks and in envelopes or suitcases. i like putting together shows in unexpested places with fellow artists. very DIY. but i haventy done that in awhile.

qi peng: What are some of the problems that you have faced with gallery directors and/or non-profit space owners?

Mark Dutcher: none more than most relationships that involve money and passion.

qi peng: What are some of your joyous moments that you had with galleries?

Mark Dutcher: i find that most gallerists really know their space and are helpful in the installation of the work. i tend to want to put everything in and i like the gallerist input on editing the work.

qi peng: Are there any future projects/installations that you dream of executing someday?

Mark Dutcher: i have lots of dreams. i would love to work with the designer martino gamper on a project. i really like his work. check out his website at

qi peng: As a Los Angeles artist, what is your assessment of the arts scene out in your city?

Mark Dutcher: i think the art scene is getting smaller because of the economy but we have  several major art schools here so i think that the scene on campus is strong.  it is a good time to be in school.los angeles is so spread out it is hard to connect. i think LA artists spend a lot of time in the studio. i spend a lot of time in my studio.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy?

Mark Dutcher: i think it sucks. it is going to be harder at all levels to  make a living off of what we love. s

qi peng: Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years?

Mark Dutcher: i hope so. i think artist should always pursue personal and intimate projects rather than stratigizing on what might sell.

qi peng: How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America?

Mark Dutcher: i like how the obama campaign reached out to small donors. i dont have much but i always managed to send twenty dollars here and there.

qi peng: Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption such as the recent Madoff scandal?

Mark Dutcher: ugh

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here?

Mark Dutcher: philip guston, joan mitchell, anselm kiefer, ellsworth kelly, cy twombly, blinky palermo, alberto burri, chris martin, amy sillman, a.r. penck, susan rothenberg, andre butzer, kadar brock, rebecca morris. Tal R. georg baselitz. mostly painters. ,

qi peng: Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to  recommend to us?

Mark Dutcher: cold war cultures;art of two germanys and Franz west both at lacma. group painting show at acme, “the ballard that becomes an anthem”.

qi peng: What things in those shows inspired your visual eye and imagination?

Mark Dutcher: in the two germanys show, i like that i was introduced to some artists that i was unfamiliar with.  the group show at acme has several of my favorite artists including amy sillman chris martin and rebecca morris.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz?

Mark Dutcher:. i would rather have a critic talk about my art than me having to be the critic. also. i usually read movie reviews after i have seen the film unless there is a critic that i really find interesting to help guide me.

qi peng: Do you read periodicals such as Artillery Magazine or ArtForum or Art in America to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world?

Mark Dutcher: yes

qi peng: Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Denver or Las Vegas will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession?

Mark Dutcher: i think when artist get together and create a community that they have a bertter chance of expanding and being noticed. i admire artists that give back to their fellow artists instead of just taking the spotlight and running away with it if that makes any sense. artists used to get together and sketch eachother.

qi peng: What do you think is the current economic and cultural state of contemporary art within the Los Angeles area?

Mark Dutcher: tough times but lots of creative energy. make something from nothing. start a band. start a commune. create your own space. i would love to put on a show on inside an abandoned mansion. Qi, i think some of your spray paint paintings would look great in a foreclosed mansion.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Los Angeles or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: What are some of your thoughts of the current trends within the contemporary art world such as conceptual art or the new media art where technology and art intersect?

Mark Dutcher: if i could make a computer out of sticks and bones i would. i have to have my hand in the work.

qi peng: Do you feel that there is a certain strength in traditional abstract expressionism within the scene where curators are hunting for the latest cutting-edge work that may diverge from painting on a support?

Mark Dutcher: gosh i feel that i am such an old fashioned painter. i let the painting guide me. but i am into pushing the bounderies of what a painting is and can do. i think most curators are looking for art that is commited and rigorous to itself. with my work i am always circling back on something. creating and destroying. breaking and building.

qi peng: What are some of your future projects that you will be pursuing soon?

Mark Dutcher: right now i am back in the studio trying to make sense of my last show. i have the urge to destroy everything.  sometimes i want to put all my work into a wood chipper. paintingdust rather than sawdust.

qi peng: Will these new pieces be an extension of the themes and ideas that you are examining now or a different direction instead?

Mark Dutcher: the future is always uncertain. i have a starting point that then shifts and fades as i am in the studio. right now i am interested in the idea of the westen landscape, the symbol of that landscape and its corrosion. i have been looking at ellsworth kelly and thinking about the idea of western expansion..

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies outside of painting?

Mark Dutcher: dog training. my boyfriend and i have two miniature austrailian shepperds that we have been taking to agilty classes and sheep herding. i like pretending i am a cowboy.

qi peng: How does these things relate to your studio practice?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Do you find yourself having to enter into the studio out of discipline or inspiration or a mixture of both?

Mark Dutcher: i love painting. i am never bored with it.

qi peng: What are some of the practical challenges that artists have to face inside or outside their studio time?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: What are some of your habits that you maintain within your studio work?

Mark Dutcher: well right now i am lucky enough to be painting full time, so i take advantage of this and go to the studio everyday from 8am to 5pm. i like to keep a schedule. and because i mostly use oil paint i like to have several paintings going at one time. the more full and chaotic the studio the more engaged i am with the world i am creating.  the studio then becomes an extension of the painting. i think that is probably why i have been adding hinged fins onto the canvas to help bring the rest of the room,the negative space around the canvas into the work.

qi peng: What trends do you see are forthcoming within the contemporary art world?

Mark Dutcher: i try not to pay attention to trends.

qi peng: How would place your paintings within the overall context of art history?

Mark Dutcher: thats an interesting question.  i very much try to live in the present and to be present in my work, but i tend to think of my work in terms of a lifetime of painting. the slow burn of history and of my history and how it is injected into the new work.  when i try to place work in an art historical context i usually look at the idea of a family tree and say, oh we are of the same lineage. i am in their tree. it is a way to make me feel connected or i could just go to the museum and see what happens as  i wander aound.

qi peng: What is the overall tenor and conceptual drive shown within your artwork?

Mark Dutcher: i would say my work has been consistantly symbol based. i would say my abstractions are symbols for abstractions. i use the same symbols over and over to the point of failure with of the first artists that i fell in love with was Susan Rothenberg, especially the head and hand abstractions and the horses when she really started breaking them apart.

qi peng: Before you embark on a painting, what factors do you use to determine whether the final work is to be large or small based on scale?

Mark Dutcher: i have the hardest time making a small painting i think this is because i am so gestural in the studio and i dont want to feel like i am just shrinking down a large painting into a smaller format. so i make only a few small paintings a year. the larger sizes are sometmes based on other painters dimensions particularly philip guston and Anselm kiefer.

qi peng: Did you ever have any formal education for art? What were your years of either informal or formal education like?

Mark Dutcher: i grew up in a family of artists. my dad is a painter, my aunt and uncle have a wax figure business and are sculptors. my aunt who passed away was an artist. my mom was an art model in the fifties and lived with my dad in a gallery in san pedro califonia. so i grew up being aware of art.and lookign at art was not foreign to me.i went to CSULB and took some art classes but dropped out and became a punk rocker.

qi peng: Were there any influential teacher and fellow student artists whose ideas or drive influenced your current abstract pictographic style?

Mark Dutcher: At CSULB i met my two best friends Maw Shein Win and Adrian de la Pena, a poet and an artist. we lived together for many years. they are still my best friends and we still make art.

qi peng: Are there any memorable stories from your early studio visits during the “school” days?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Your large scale mixed media paintings feature various shapes ranging from abstract expressionist brushstrokes and drips as well as formal geometric shapes such as lines and circles and somewhat identifiable figurative or architectural shapes. What is the underlying process from start to finish that you execute these works?

Mark Dutcher: well usually i have a starting point for the work for example  i did a series of paintings based on the idea of theaters of memory where i imagined all the people and relationships in my life together all at once on stage as the curtain came up. the people where abstracted to heads which became circles. i also did paintings  where the starting point was the idea of a near death experience; you go through this portal or tunnel and all the symbols that make up ones life disintergrate and become meaningless. The painting changes in the studio. i dont have a fixed idea of how it should end up. i dont like to have everything planned out.

qi peng: How do you choose your color scheme?

Mark Dutcher: I gravitate to primary colors. i dont mix colors that often and i am comfortable with using paint straight form the tube.

qi peng: What are some of the challenges in completing such works?

Mark Dutcher: often i paint over work that i had thought was finished. galleries hate this but it has always been part of my studio practice. i incorperate older paintings into new work by cutting up the canvas  (into circles or stripes) and using that as a way of apyling paint. i dont really think if it as collage for some reason.

qi peng: How do you incorporate your intellectual and emotional interests into the support itself and within the way that you communicate your feelings and ideas to the viewer?

Mark Dutcher: i try to be intuitive about my painting.  A good discription of my painting would be clumsy but honest..

qi peng: There are certain instances where you incorporate a use of text or word such as “EMPIRE” into the work itself. What are you attempting to convey within the merging of visual motifs and verbal gestures?

Mark Dutcher: well for many years i have been trying to use langaue and words as gesture in my work. i usually am compelled to write something on the painting and then equally compelled to painti it out. every once in awhile a word remains. empire. that urge to write something on the surface to deface the illusion of the picture plane has lessoned the more i write short fictions that surround the work.

qi peng: How does each part of the painting complement and speak to each other?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Is there a decorative element within your own works?

Mark Dutcher: glitter. decay. feathers. beauty that is chipped, cracked, faded.

qi peng: In what ways can decoration be a profound statement on the nature of how we perceive life?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Is your artwork a combination of an artifact of beauty as well as an insightful philosophical statement?

Mark Dutcher: yes.

qi peng: Can these elements be reconciled and if so, how?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: How do your works on paper fit into the design of your paintings?

Mark Dutcher: i try to make something other than a painting but even my drawings end up being a painting.i consider my three dimesional working paintings .

qi peng: Would you like to explain more about your installation called “Fox Building 103” that you had over at the Hammer Museum?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: What is its history of its development into finished work?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: What is your overall approach towards the creation of installation art and how does it complement what you achieve within your paintings?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Do you plan any further installations that we ought to be cognizant of?

Mark Dutcher: [no answer]

qi peng: Before we embark on the last question, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything else that you wish to share with the readers here and fans of your artwork or your special projects that you have shown?

Mark Dutcher: Qi thanks so much for inviting me to answer these questions. i really like what you are doing. it is an honor to be included.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 1:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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