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Heroes, Villains, and Mermaids: the Fantastical World of Ronald Markman

March 5 - April 29, 2005


Bold Broadway designs and humor make for a lively retrospective of Ronald Markman's fantasy world, Mukfa. The exhibit, "Heroes, Villains, and Mermaids: the Fantastical World of Ronald Markman" is being held at the Mitchell Gallery of Art at St. John's College in Annapolis March 5 - April 29, 2005. (right: Ronald Markman, Cityscape, 1995, acrylic on wood and aluminum)

"When my parents took me to Broadway musicals I was inspired by the power of the color and costume and design," says Markman, who for the last four decades has been fashioning his fantasyland, Mukfa. "Since childhood, my art has always been inspired by popular culture -- I began drawing at my family kitchen table in the Bronx while listening to Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Charlie McCarthy on the radio," says Markman, who spent Saturdays at the movie house, savoring the mayhem of the Marx brothers and comedies of the 1930s.

Marksman's fantasyland, Mukfa has all the pop exuberance of animation like "Yellow Submarine" and whimsical satire of stories like "Alice in Wonderland." Marksman sees Mukfa as "my chance to explore the limits of the nonsensical, the absurd, and the subversive." He populates Mukfa with heroes, villains, mermaids, newspapers, nightclubs, and even a university. He uses an eclectic mélange of materials such as vibrant acrylics, aluminum, paper mache, and wood -- adding comic book- style commentary. In "Cityscape" a zany, madcap urban energy explodes as dozens of yellow checker cabs jam up against "Mukbuses," while in the quieter "Plant Life" a vertical sculpture spawns dozens of bright blooms. In Mukfa, whimsical newsstands have headlines like "Everything goes with everything went."

Markman first conceived of the idea of Mukfa while in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship in 1962. Markman's work was first represented by the Terry Dintenfass gallery in Manhattan; the late Dintenfass represented the estates of many first-generation American modernists and embraced artists -- such as Markman -- with a strong illustrational bent, including Richard Merkin, Robert Andrew Parker, and Edward Koren, a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Markman's work is displayed in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Hirschhorn Collection. This is the first retrospective of his work. (right: Ronald Markman, Poz, 2001, acrylic on wood and aluminum)

A March 6, 2005 article by Theresa Winslow of the The Capital, says that "The show features 12 of his works, including a giant 11-foot-high gate to his kingdom -- all with intricate detail and hundreds of parts. Many feature painted aluminum pieces mounted on wood, and mix art with a running, written commentary on the life and people of Mukfa." In describing Mukfa, Ms. Winslow adds,

Among the populace of Mukfa are Capt. Dan Thow (the hero), the Bang Bang Gang (the villains) and lots of mermaids. Many of the women in his art have three breasts, which is his offbeat way of commenting on how "breast-obsessed" society is, he said. To get an idea of his humor, there are also "news" blurbs on a few pieces announcing the discovery of a rare, two-breasted woman.
Mr. Markman himself also appears in the show, as his artistic alter-ego, Rolland Markum. Mr. Markum looks a bit like Groucho Marx, which isn't surprising since he's a big fan of Marx Brothers movies. (One of the special events scheduled during the exhibit will be a screening of their classic, "Duck Soup.")


Exhibit Events:

April 9

Poetry workshop on "Talking Pictures, Painted Words: Poetry from Ron Markman's Mukfa" at 10 a.m. in the Conversation Room. In this workshop, author Rose Solari will lead an imaginative exploration of Markman's land of Mukfa. Registration is required; please call 410-626-2556.

April 17

Poetry reading by participants in the writing workshop, "Talking Pictures, Painted Words: Poetry from Ron Markman's Mukfa" at 3 p.m. in the Conversation Room.



(above: Ronald Markman, Plant Life, 2003, acrylic on wood and aluminum)


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