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Mark Schatz’s aspirational title, Universe, directly links to Buckminster Fuller and his writings. Fuller began to refer to the universe without the THE saying, ”We are a part of Universe.” Born in Denver, Schatz grew up in Michigan and spent twelve years in Texas. He now serves as the Foundation Coordinator at Kent State University. Universe, opened on April 26, 2013 at The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio and represents Schatz’s third exhibition in the Buckeye State.
Schatz, often using maps in the process of relocating his life, finds fascination in them in particular for what cartographers choose to exclude. He says that maps get their coherence through omission rather than inclusion. Denis Wood, a cartographer of Boylan Heights, intriguingly ignores all but the jack-o-lanterns, street signs, streetlights, fences, or sidewalk graffiti in his maps. Schatz omits life but leaves its physical residue similar to an abandoned honeycomb left below a hive’s continual progression upward. At times one views a city from the ground level only to, with a simple walk around Universe, observe from a vantage point of flying high above the metaphorical clouds. The structure in the gallery, loosely based on a geodesic dome, exists in a state of flux. It neither folds nor unfolds. The strange form presents contradictions of interior / exterior, of up / down / of, high / low.
Continuing to edit as a subversive cartographer, Schatz manifests his vision of humanity’s built environment and allows every viewer to project into the emptiness and the void. Carl Sagan said that we are stardust. Schatz seems to say that we are cardboard moving boxes. Both realizations help us comprehend our connection to and existence as the void. Structures resembling hives or asteroids reiterate the sense of Universe as cardboard or personal ephemera and detritus. The decision to either view the environments from the bottom or the top allows for the subversion of the political north.
Schatz pays attention to important formal details and demonstrates superb material handling and sensitivity. Colors on the linear structure wrap around poles and always continue past corners, keeping the viewer in motion. Rather than use modular forms placed into a planned system, he produces the structures in place allowing the sections to naturally merge and flow into each other. Graphics and handwritten words on cardboard moving boxes span from one sector to the next. Tract housing follows the contours of the cardboard hills. In the distance, urban cores beckon with glowing LED’s and their accompanying nightlife. Mountains of sculpted white foam grace the “top” of the map creating a perceived hierarchy. Sitting atop these hills, sometimes entombed in geodesic domes, stand a number of large colossus figures. Schatz finds fascination in the seemingly universal desire of humanity to fabricate large-scale effigies when time, technology and funds permit. What causes this desire? What makes the land on the metaphorical hill valuable?
The cities and housing clusters in Universe remove us from the everyday and through the use of banal materials offer a detached glimpse of our scurrying ant-like behavior and habits. Schatz permits to viewer to assign value to the urban, suburban or rural. Standing atop or below the shifting cardboard tectonics, we can project our lives and aspirations into the restaurant districts, the harbors, the ports, an isolated cabin on a floating boulder or a graphite smeared plain. Each of us brings our individual chaos and ideas for how to place our sofa in the dome of Universe.
Universe runs from April 26 to June 1, 2013 at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The exhibition in the Euclid Avenue Gallery is free and open to the public.
The Sculpture Center
1834 E. 123rd Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44106