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Current Drifter • Paintings by Mark Van Wagner

Mark Van Wagner,  Hula Lasso (detail) , 2016, natural and pigmented sand, polymer glue and gesso on canvas, 60" x 48"

Mark Van Wagner, Hula Lasso (detail), 2016, natural and pigmented sand, polymer glue and gesso on canvas, 60" x 48"



Hamilton Square Condominium Association


Current DrifterPaintings by Mark Van Wagner

September 9, 2016 – January 2, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday Sep 9, 2016, 7-9pm


Hamilton Square

232 Pavonia Avenue

Jersey City, NJ 07302


SILVERMAN and Hamilton Square Condominium Association presents “Current Drifter • Paintings by Mark Van Wagner,” curated by Enrico Gomez.

New York artist Mark Van Wagner creates abstract and expressionistic paintings with pigmented and natural sand. Utilizing a broad range of subtle earth tones and dramatic color, Van Wagner employs and expands upon the textural dimension of this most primary and plentiful of human building blocks, the earth itself.

Sand, an elemental component of the paintings assembled here, plays a number of key roles within this artist’s makings. Foremost among these is the role of “medium”, as sand is the main expressive vehicle within the works presented.  This granular material replaces the more traditional oil or acrylic utilized by so many contemporary painters. Through mixture with pigment, glue and additional media, Mark Van Wagner builds up the layers of accreted media into finely textured and boulder-like surfaces; abstractions impressive in scale and impact.

Constructed largely atop stretched canvases configured horizontally, Van Wagner's paintings share the considered and meditative character of traditional Tibetan and Native-American Sand Painting as well as the bravura and frenetic spatter of works by Mitchell, Pollock and other Modern greats. Underscoring the Buddhist spirituality of the paintings, the artist adds that he recognized “sand to be the most literal medium to capture material decomposition - its essence defining impermanence related to place and gross matter."  Here we see the conceptual implications of building with beach sand; its traces of sea salt, calcium carbonate and quartz linking this earthly material to all carbon-based life forms and to the star stuff of the universe at large. Comprised of multiple painted gestures within delineated rectangular arenas, the paintings also reference sand-boxes (the childhood locus of creativity), human portraiture, or blocks of unformed clay, shot through with loping lines of color-filled possibility.  A close examination of the surface reveals inclusions of sea-worn detritus (bits of plastic, pebbles of ocean glass, splinters of driftwood).  The contrast between pictorial cues of visual depth and actual, bas-relief dimensionality within the painting is only one example among many of the paradoxes that make Van Wagner's artwork so compelling.

The dualistic tensions found within the paintings seep also into the shows title, "Current Drifter”. Gently guiding the viewer to some of Van Wagner's long standing concerns, the word "Current" of course, refers to temporality as well as to the active flow of water and energy that are a tidal constant; bringing sand, wood, and the element of surprise with some regularity. Culled from beaches as far apart as Hawaii and Long Island, Van Wagner's sand is a marker of a process that works in conjunction and partnership with the natural world and local environs.  The “Drifter” portion of the title might refer to any bits of material (wood, leaves, ocean refuse) found drifting atop the watery currents … some of which will find their way into the artist's work. "Drifter" may also refer to that perfect release that enables our human creativity, the Zen-like exhale and mindfulness so integral to intuitive art making strategies.  Here again we come full circle to paradox; a show title and respective works that indicate both the spiritual float of inspiration with the ebb and flow of directional intention. Like castles along the surf, elaborate and evolving in formation, these works remain a play between substance and impermanence, hinting at the inevitable and recursive return of all forms to source. 

Mark Van Wagner (b. 1959, New York, NY, United States) is an artist who is currently engaged in a series of works utilizing sand as his primary medium. The artist references the medium to early childhood play in the sand box and the beach as well as its explicit references to decomposition. Van Wagner received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982. He has since exhibited in numerous venues across the U.S. including Transform Gallery (New York, NY), Proto Gallery (Hoboken, NJ), Randolph Street Gallery (Chicago, IL), Jamestown Art Center (Jamestown, RI), Studio Vendome (New York, NY), Name Gallery (Chicago, IL), Elisa Contemporary Art (Riverdale, NY), and Providence Art Center (Providence, RI) among many others. He has exhibited at the art fairs; Art Hamptons (Bridgehampton, NY) and Affordable Art Fair (New York, NY) and has been covered by various media outlets including Chicago Tribune,,, and NPR radio among others. His work is included in the collection of the Rockford Art Museum (Rockford, IL). The artist currently lives and works in the Long Island village of Bellport, NY.

The exhibition will be on view at Hamilton Square through January 2, 2017. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000. Hamilton Square is located at 232 Pavonia Avenue in Jersey City, NJ.

“Current Drifter : Paintings by Mark Van Wagner” is the second exhibition that artist/curator Enrico Gomez will organize for SILVERMAN. For additional information on the exhibiting artist Mark Van Wagner, please visit: For additional information on the curator, please visit: and

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Rob Ventura, Robert Hendrickson, Sarah Becktle, Kati Vilim, Mark Dagley, Candy Le Sueur, Ed Fausty, Anna Mogilevsky, Ali Harrington, Sara Wolfe, Anne Percoco, Shauna Finn, Melanie Vote, Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynn, Margaret Murphy, Valeri Larko, Tenesh Webber, Glenn Garver, Jennifer Krause Chapeau, Michelle Doll, Tim Heins, Megan Maloy, Laurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa, Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

(PATH to GROVE or NEWPORT stops : PATH Trains from WTC, 33rd St, 23rd St, 14th St, 9th St, and Christopher St)

(PATH to GROVE or NEWPORT stops : PATH Trains from WTC, 33rd St, 23rd St, 14th St, 9th St, and Christopher St)