marvin gates


You have never heard of Marvin Gates. But then, few people have. He is that art world myth: a painter who develops in hiding and emerges late, fully formed. I first met him in my studio in Boston, where he told me, after observing that I was the kind of person he would enjoy talking to at a cocktail party, that when it came to painting I should just “tack my balls to the wall and face ridicule.” His shirt was buttoned to the top button. . . . All of this puts time in a strange position. Allegory and hard-edge are revived, but they are put to work telling a personal story, something they wouldn’t have done in their heyday. An obvious nostalgia is coupled with a rare devotion to presenting the City as it lives now. One may admire Leger, but those sneakers aren’t retro. The story occurs in a flash which has taken forever to construct.

The picture might best be described as a pattern – it shows us an order but doesn’t reveal more than it has to. It is fixed, but it has implications. Much of the world’s identity has been stripped, and we have a hard time accounting for what remains. The magazine at the bottom left might be one of the art mags the young Gates read and abandoned, but we are not invited to know. And although we are invited to fix our stare on Death’s sky blue bag, we will never know what’s in there.

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