Beyond the White Cube: Mark Schoening. Mixed-Media Artist

Several weeks ago, I caught up with one of my favorite emerging artists, Mark Schoening. I have been following his career for a few years now and I find that his work brings together concept and craft, something often missing in contemporary art. His work is technically and visually strong and the concepts he explores are compelling.  You don’t need a curator sitting next to you explaining his work in order to connect with it but you also don’t feel like you’re looking at a decorative art work that doesn’t have much to say.

I was excited to visit his new studio located in his backyard just south of downtown LA. And he even let me photograph him as he worked on a new piece, part of a series that will be on view at Gallery B15 in Copenhagen this October. But before we dive into the visit, let’s start with a photo he sent me several days after we met, which I can’t resist posting. All 3 dogs are rescues and one is an especially energetic 3-legged poodle… I like to think of them as the Schoening studio mascots.

Photo courtesy of Mark Schoening

Yasmine Mohseni (YM): Describe your style

Mark Schoening (MS): With the curiosity of a 5 year old and the precision of a surgeon, I attempt to combine a series of hand made and digitally made marks over and over again letting the painting process start and stop within layers of resin.  My generic response typically is “I paint information explosions”. Most people then ask, “do you really blow things up?”

YM: Why did you become an artist?

MS: 10 years ago, I was moving apartments and decided that I needed something to hang on the walls of the new place. The next day I walked to an art store and bought a cheap set of acrylic paints and a 30×40″ canvas and began a ridiculous series of portrait paintings. I made 10 of them within the month, and on weekends would take them to a corner a few blocks away in attempt to sell them.  Soon after, I put a stop to the pursuit of an English degree and found my way into art school.

YM: Which artist, living or dead – do you most admire?  

MS: There are too many to name, but I draw inspiration from the discovery of new language and a unique hand.


YM: What inspires you?  


MS: Curiosity.     

YM: How would you articulate the concepts you are expressing in your art?

MS: The simple process of painting has always interested in me.  The way paint goes onto a surface, the way it moves, dries, and can be sanded away…

My process must begin as playful gesture.  A simple series of marks are made attempting to set myself up with a visual problem.  I then attempt to solve in a unique way the compositional challenges that I’m faced with…

The process mimics the path of a ball in a pinball machine.  The stages may and often repeat, but the path is never known. I want the viewer to wander, get lost, and be overwhelmed. 

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