The Art of Marcus Uzilevsky – by Andrea Liss
The art of Marcus Uzilevsky is distinguished by an underlying philosophy of optimism. Uzilevsky conveys his favorable outlook on life with clarity and assurance. It permeates the various styles of his paintings, drawings and prints – seemingly growing stronger with each new development.
Basic to Uzilevsky’s sense that this world can render life good and meaningful, is his deep connection with the land around him. In the early 1970’s, he began a series of drawings inspired by the landscape of the Marin hills. The artist creates these drawings by building up parallel horizontal lines in rich earth colors. These linear landscapes are probably the best known works by Uzilevsky. They convey an otherworldly, sensuous and serene quality. That Uzilevsky entrusts the expression of nature’s light, color and form to artistic means evidences yet another facet of his optimism. He has faith in art’s power to reveal underlying mysteries that we may disregard unless they are visually reinterpreted. Therefore, rather than merely copying what he sees, Uzilevesky prefers to interpret and transform the natural world into original imagery. He remains loyal, however, to the essential vision conveyed in the actual landscape.
Uzilevsky’s more recent work is also formed by a building-up technique similar to that used in his linear landscape drawings. Is newer acrylic canvasses are composed of layers of overlapping and calligraphic paint applied with dowels, sticks and syringes. Instead of the geometric lines in his earlier work, theses paintings are remarkable for their energetic spontaneity. The artist’s optimism is restated in these paintings through the passion and exuberance of their gestural markings.
The various facets of Uzilevsky’s art share many important concerns with the work of a number of pioneer American modernists. The ideas underlying his Music Series drawings, for instance, are closely aligned with the intentions of Synchromist artists Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. Starting in 1913, these two artists experimented with the relationships between sounds in music and colors in visual art, attempting to create symphonies of color and a harmony between the two disciplines. Uzilevsky’s desire to merge the two forms derives from a more personal source than the inspirations of the Synchromist artists. Uzilevsky is a musician as well as a visual artist. He has matured in both forms so that the two may now inform each other in his Musical Series. These drawings form a lyrical language of calligraphic notations that express a feeling symbiotic with the music Uzilevsky composes. “I want the art and music I make to enhance each other so the total environment will have a uplifting effect”.
Uzilevsky’s transition from a linear to a gestural style, as well as his deviation from an art historical precedent, is based on his personal development more than on exterior fashion. Just as the different styles of his art build on each other, showing a progressive spontaneity and freedom of expression, so Uzilevsky’s life experiences create an interconnected network.
The artist was born in New York City in 1937 to Russian and Polish immigrants. He displayed an early aptitude for drawing, and was trained in illustration. Finding that a commercials art job in an automobile accessory store gave little outlet for his creative urge, Uzilevsky taught himself to play the guitar and performed with Bob Dylan and the New Christy Minstrels under the pseudonym Rusty Evans. The fulfillment and freedom he experienced with his music influenced his rediscovery of visual art, which first occurred in the unorthodox expression of abstract paintings executed on the walls of his mother’s kitchen.
In 1967, Uzilevsky moved from New York City to California, where he began a period of spiritual re-examinations. From then on he used his real name, continued to compose music, and engaged himself fully in making prints, drawings and paintings. Uzilevsky’s inner faith and outer optimism have carried him from one coast to the other, and seen him through changing careers and transformed values. His art conveys the non-linear evolution of one who has come full circle, with the intent of sharing with his audience the joy and meaning he has achieved.
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