Mari Eastman is one of several artists who, over the course of the past ten years, has transformed painting in Los Angeles. Eastman’s work deals directly with the experience of making paintings; at the same time, it is concerned with the history of painting and the medium’s place in an image-driven society. As curator Russell Ferguson writes in his essay for the landmark Hammer Museum exhibition, “The Undiscovered Country” (2004), the “self-conscious but nevertheless sincere exploration of girlishness and adolescence” in Eastman's painting embraces romantic fantasy. However, because she often uses photography as source material, "a scene from the war in Iraq can thus become equivalent in one sense to an image pulled from an advertisement...”
For ARCO, Eastman will present a new series of works entitled, “At the Party and What They Wore.” Included are paintings depicting smartly-dressed women and a magnificent grand park, empty in the evening except for palm trees against the night sky. These individual “Dark Echo Park” paintings are cut from what was originally one large painting depicting Los Angeles’s Elysian Park at dusk, painted from memory. This contrast of memory painting and painting from photographs produces an additional layer of complexity. What is the accuracy in either act of representation? The images of women have moody swathes of color and additions of White-out and fluorescent tape that articulate figure from foreground. These seemingly simple representations in modest ballpoint pen are then punctuated by cuts in the canvas – an act that implies violence to the painting but ultimately functions as another form of mark-making. In the ARCO presentation, this group of representational paintings is complimented by a group of largely non-representational works, one of which is titled “My Interpretation of the 80s Aesthetic.” The painting showcases Eastman's loose, translucent brushwork and seemingly carefree application of paint, revealing a sophistication and mastery of technique. Casual yet assured, she pits preciousness against messiness and banality in an array of tableau that satiates and charms.
Eastman received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work was recently included in the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art (Newport Beach, CA); and has been seen in museum exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum (Berkeley, CA); Hammer Museum (Los Angeles); Museum Morsbroich (Leverkusen, Germany); and the Kuanstverein Oldenburg (Oldenburg, Germany) among others. Eastman has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Cherry and Martin (Los Angeles); Emily Tsingou Gallery (London); Sies + Höke (Dusseldorf) and Spruth and Magers Projekte (Munich, Germany).