Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director
In the contemporary world of art a battle is raging. As the 20th Century clicked over to the 21st, it provided a convenient demarcation point for this struggle, but it has really been ongoing for at least 90 years. The conflict is about the search by artists of our time for the fundamentals of aesthetics which have long ago been “thrown under the bus.”
In 1917, when Marcel Duchamp created the first “Readymade” by signing with a fictitious name an inverted urinal and titling it Fountain, the true iconoclastic struggle of aesthetic “life and death” began. By proclaiming that something was art, because the artist claimed it to be, the aesthetic experience was transformed into a kind of artistic narcissism, a constant contextual rumination by art asking itself, “Am I art, or am I not art?” For nearly one hundred years now, artists, historians, museums, art educational institutions, galleries, auction houses and collectors have embraced and legitimized these types of artistic creations and conceptualizations. We are all familiar with the dirty ashtrays, the sharks in formaldehyde, Plexiglas boxes of trash and the thousands of other manifestations of what author Donald Kuspit in his book, The End of Art (2004, Cambridge University Press), has aptly named, “postart.” “Post-artworks” have been included in exhibitions with great fanfare and have fetched in the auction and gallery markets dramatically high prices, especially when compared to works by artistic masters of the past.
A comprehensive investigation into the history of art ultimately reveals that if only one thing can be counted on, it is that artists (and consequently their creations) will react strongly to the art of their time. Often this reaction will be in the form of pushing back against the grain of the accepted art of the times, i.e. the art that is seen as respected, legitimate, important, and valid. Even deeper investigation will often reveal that the polar opposites that drive the pendulum of art history from one side to the other are grounded in the artistic ideals found in form and content and these in turn can be seen as the overarching characteristics of the pendulum’s extreme positions.
I am fortunate to have a life immersed in art. It surrounds me every day. I research it, buy it, sell it, talk to people about it, and teach others to speak of it. I hear the questions, comments and concerns of collectors, both novice and seasoned. And when I speak of these contemporary issues, of art which causes the viewer to scratch his head and say, “So what?” after contemplating the “postart” that has besieged our world, I get more often than not, the same response: “Please teach me something. Enrich my experience. Show me something about life and the world in which I live that I did not know before I experienced your creative spirit. Help me to walk away from the contemplation of your art and feel enhanced.” Sadly, in most cases none of these questions are answered or desires fulfilled. Here it once again appears: the cry for a true aesthetic experience, “perception with feeling”—and people are indeed crying out for it.
“So what does any of this have to do with Csaba Markus?” you might ask. Well, I have had the good fortune to have many discussions with Csaba about these very subjects. And Csaba is a true student of art history. He is an aesthetic Olympian, a man whose entire existence is driven to create an art which elevates, amplifies and exhilarates those who encounter it. Csaba senses that something big is happening now. He sees a new way in which art is being brought to the world. A new way in which people who would never have previously had any inclination or disposition to even contemplate experiencing and collecting art, are now engaged and even passionate about the change in their lives brought to them through these experiences.
Stand before a painting by Csaba Markus. At once you know it’s the “real deal.” Before your eyes is a work of art that immediately communicates to the viewer the technical mastery possessed by this artist. Csaba has “chops.” He has studied the techniques of Leonardo, Durer, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and one hundred other old masters. Likewise, he commands the compositional devices and nuances of the abstract painters and the expressionists. His intention, he has told me, is to create a work that bridges centuries of artistic stylization. And one that is beyond any categorization, any label or generality.
When you look at a painting by Csaba he wants you to bring your own experience to the work. He wants it to be the point of departure for your imagination as your eyes drink in the face of a gorgeous, timeless woman; an airy iconic space full of floating images, symbols and visual touchstones for poetic association; gestures of pure shape and pigment, tonal flourishes, fields of color, ribbons of linear arabesques dancing across the surface. Csaba’s works introduce an artistic world that is fully formed. They present an ideal and harmonic blend of form and content. To Csaba, the act of creating beauty is once again paramount.
Who can say how his work will be viewed in one hundred, two hundred, or five hundred years? Future historians my scratch their heads and wonder, “What were they thinking?” when they look back in the history books at the remnants of paintings made of spaghetti, sculptures made of old shoes lying in a sled, and “artist shit” in cans (Piero Manzoni). They may very well then set the book down and glance over at their two hundred-year-old Csaba Markus painting hanging on the wall, and be grateful for the artistic crusaders of the early 21st Century who brought back the love of beauty.
Learn more about Csaba Markus at the Park West Gallery Artist Biographies page or view selections of the artist’s works from the Park West Gallery Collection. For more than 42 years, Park West Gallery has introduced more than 1.3 million collectors in more than 60 countries to the world of fine art. Their worldwide art events provide an educational, entertaining and welcoming environment, igniting a passion for the arts. Park West Gallery has locations in Miami, Florida and Southfield, Michigan, as well as aboard major cruise ships.
About Morris Shapiro:
Gallery Director Morris Shapiro’s interest in art was sparked when he was just seven years old, growing up in Chicago. Shapiro began drawing as a child, and years later went on to study at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1975, with an emphasis in art history, aesthetics, art criticism and studio art. After working for more than a year at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Shapiro returned to Chicago to pursue his other passion – music. After playing the drums professionally for a time, Shapiro began working as the gallery director for two of Merrill Chase Galleries’ Chicago locations from 1977-1983.
In 1983 Shapiro joined Park West as its Gallery Director. Shapiro takes pride in playing an important role in a company that has redefined the model of how art is brought to and experienced by the world. “In many ways, art has been taken away from the people, and made less accessible,” Shapiro says. “It is incredibly gratifying to be able to bring our art collections directly to the public, and allow them to experience art first-hand.” Shapiro also deeply enjoys his relationships with Park West’s artists, working with them to develop their art and introduce it to the public.