Marcus Jansen Chronology
1968 - 1976
Marcus Jansen is born 1968 at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, New York. While residing in the southern part of the Bronx, raised alongside one brother by a West Indian mother from Jamaica and a father from Germany.
Jansen witnesses his first subway trains passing by close to his 880 Boynton Ave. highrise building, where cartoon-like characters and writings start appearing on otherwise dull subway trains that changed the city’s environment permanently. These experiences leave a lasting impression on Jansen and his art.
After the family moved to Queens NY, Jansen exhibits his first painting at the “Lever House” in Manhattan at age six. His painting of a male lion is a stunning depiction on paper, selected during a New York City art competition while attending school. This becomes Jansen's first public exhibition.
1976 - 1979
Jansen is transplanted from the big apple to Moenchengladbach, Germany, his father's birth place, where Jansen, although not fluent in German, is placed into a German speaking school. Due to difficulties that come with such a cultural transition, Jansen faces challenges but excels mostly in art and sports instead of academic subjects like math and physics.
He becomes a master at engaging in various cultures and finds new ways to communicate between them, one of his tools being art. Politics, news and world history is at the helm of discussion during much of Jansen’s upbringing, initiated by his father, an Historian, avid reader, businessman and former soldier.
It would be the vibrant German Expressionist painters during his young adult years in Europe during travels to cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and the new action painters from New York that will leave their footprint on Jansen. Attracted by movement, color, motion and impulse, Jansen is mostly drawn to these rebellious avant garde painters and sees a common thread between the graffiti artists and the master contemporaries which he later explores in his work. Jansen believes that this type of impulsive or subconscious work is a direct result of the oppressive politics and economically disadvantaged or regimented environment from which this kind of work derives. Jansen states, “ In a civilized society, the society is forced to renounce instinctive behavior; it is up to the artist to bring it to the surface in reasonable ways.”
1980 - 1985
There are two significant moments where Jansen realizes that being a painter can actually be a profession. One, at age fourteen, after walking into a train station in Germany where he sees a catalog book titled “Robert Rauschenberg.” He is fascinated by the cover that shows instruments mounted on wood in golden color with a strongly familiar urban inner-city feel; something he has never seen before but quickly identifies with. Two, he’s influenced by a rebellious graffiti art movement in the 1980’s, that by then had emerged as a world phenomena producing artists like Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat and dominates the contemporary art scene. Jansen becomes involved in the various art forms of the subculture including breakdancing, but Jansen quickly adopts graffiti as a vehicle of communication and is mostly fascinated as to what the art form did to it’s environment and how it changes the modern urban landscape.
Graffiti writer WEST already made his mark in the history books as noted in the book “graffiti kings” by Jack Stewart. It’s during this time that Jansen is introduced to WEST in New York City in the 1980’s. Well known for slogans like “Oh NO IT’S WESTO” on the number 1 line from Bronx to Manhattan, WEST encourages Jansen to paint and only years later WEST becomes Vice President of his own streetwear clothing company PNB Nation clothing. Something that stays an inspiration for Jansen.
1986 - 1988
Gravitating towards the “instinctive” versus what Jansen sees as the regimented academics, he completes high school and at the request of his father, attends the Berufsfachschule in Monenchengladbach for one year where he studied “Kunst/Gestaltung”. This is a school that included studies of photography, design, technical drawing, paint, graphics and color, which gives Jansen an understanding of basic structure in the arts. He becomes bored and leaves, sighting no further interest. Instead, like Willem de Kooning in his days, Jansen starts an apprenticeship as a commercial house painter where he is first introduced to oil enamel paints. Jansen completes his school and spends much time between Maastricht Netherlands and Germany. He meets “Daisy Dee”, the former host of the German VIVA TV station “Club Rotation”, in 1987 at a nightclub and becomes Jansen’s biggest supporter and starts to commission Jansen. Jansen travels throughout Europe and is exposed to art and culture.
1989 - 1996
Jansen decides to enlist in the US Armed Forces in 1989 and due to an arising conflict is immediately deployed after boot camp to Desert Storm in August of 1990. He returns in April of 1991 and is stationed among many other areas in “Dragon City”, Dharan, close to the most devastating missile attack during the war. On February 25, 1991 Jansen witnesses the explosion from his tower guard duty and the tour continues to takes it's toll on Jansen.
Returning from his tour, Jansen has more questions than answers. He is deployed to Korea at the DMZ for one year and when back from Korea, Jansen undergoes art therapy treatment at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland. His artwork gets the counselor's attention.
Jansen is assigned to Germany for his last duty assignment and serves with the 1st Infantry Division in Vilseck Bavaria. He moves in with his then girlfriend Michaela Hansen, an economic major from RWTH Aachen, originally from the former socialist East Germany, in Greifswald. Michaela becomes his wife and the artist’s biggest support during the first part of his career until she passes early in 2011.
1997 - 2003
Jansen, becoming more critical of U.S. interventions and attitudes regarding foreign policies, discharges honorably in 1997 with the rank of Sergeant. He starts his art career in Aachen, Germany the same year. His first show is an exhibition at Aula Carolina in Aachen where he is noted in the Aachener Zeitung for the first time since his discharge. For guidance, Jansen approaches Dr. Annette Lagler, Director at the Ludwigs Forum Museum Aachen while living only blocks away from the Museum. He shares photos of work from 1997 and she shares helpful advice for a newly emerging artist.
Jansen decides to leave Aachen Germany and returns to New York City to face a larger audience and sets up on the street corner of Prince Street and Broadway with artist friend Carlos Ramsey to sell works. He becomes part of the group of artists referred to as “Princestreetkings” who display their work on the streets of SOHO in New York. It is then that one of his first buyers is Hollywood Actor John Ortiz, who purchases “Harlem Deli”, 30x40”, while filming a movie with Julian Schnabel in Manhattan. Jansen returns to Germany and then moves to Atlanta, Georgia in August 2001. Only two months later the September 11th incident takes place in New York.
Richard Beavers, an MTV employee at the time, becomes Jansen's first U.S. collector. The Brooklyn based art fan builds a long lasting relationship with Jansen and will later turn art dealer and appear in Jansen’s first film while reselling work to the urban community, placing works with NBA stars like Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks and New York Times noted collector, Peggy Cooper-Cafritz.
Jansen starts exploring the human condition in his work, often working with paradoxes, his own experiences and drawing parallels between historic and contemporary worlds using the urban landscape as stage. In 2003 Jansen receives his first big commission by Ford Motor Company in Detroit.
He moves to Florida with his then wife Michaela and first son, where he continues working, unknowingly in an area not far from where world renowned artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein reside.
2004 - 2009
Jansen has the opportunity to show with Rauschenberg in support of a local charity at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in 2004 and is later introduced to him by renowned Musician, Kat Epple after Rauschenberg is seen viewing Jansen’s work at the show. The same year, Jansen meets art historian Jerome A. Donson. The former director of the famous American Vanguard Exhibitions 1961 that traveled to Europe and included Robert Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and others, discovers Jansen's work while visiting a local theater next to a gallery Jansen was showing at. Donson writes about the artist in Jansen's first French catalog titled “Marcus Jansen Modern Urban Expressionism” in which Donson calls Jansen the “innovator of modern Expressionism” and compares it with ash-can school.
Jansen is commissioned by Warner Brothers for it’s 80th anniversary and selected for the 12th International Print & Drawing Biennial in Taiwan with Juror David Kiehl from the Whitney Museum of Art and is one of only nine other Americans selected for the Biennial in 2007. He begins painting large scale works in a post 9/11 era and is influenced by an emerging surveillance state in 2008 and 2009, and addresses the patenting of pigs DNA, a painting that is included in The New Britain Museum of American Art permanent collection.
Mark Gyetvay, an avid art collector from Naples with a keen eye who is noted in the Financial Times becomes Jansen's No 1 collector acquiring the extraordinary work “Creeping Obstacles in Kansas”, which later becomes the cover piece of the MFA alumni selection in the New American Paintings publication.
2010 - 2015
In 2011, Jansen’s longtime supporting wife dies suddenly leaving him with his two sons. During this time Jansen is commissioned by Absolut Vodka. He becomes part of the next generation of Absolut artists and follows in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Keith Haring. Jansen just barely makes the deadline. The publication New American Paintings places Jansen’s work “Creeping Obstacles In Kansas” on the cover of Vol. 94, selected by Dan Cameron, Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art.
In 2013, Jansen becomes a winner at the Arte Laguna Biennale Prize in Venice, Italy where he is asked to show in a solo exhibition in Italy for the first time. The show is noted by publications like Rolling Stone, Arte, XL Repubblica and ESPOARTE, that poses the question, “A new star is born”? Jansen opens a studio space in downtown Fort Myers. In 2015 Naples Noteworthy calls him: “One of the most important American Painters of our Time.” Jansen collaborates with Robert Rauschenberg’s former assistant, Jonas Stirner, in a one year exhibition at the Jansen studios in Fort Myers, UNIT A Studio and Residency. He is later personally introduced to Lawrence Voytek, Rauschenberg’s Art fabricator who will later perform at Jansen's studio with his band “Sonic Combines.”
Sabrina Gruber, a young musician and pianist, becomes Jansen's muse, partner and fiancé. She becomes the primary photographer of all photos of the artist in his studios. Her most recognizable photo being the photo on Jansen's later to be published Skira Editore book “Marcus Jansen DECADE.”
The first International film is filmed with director and Emmy award winning filmmaker, John Scoular, who presents Jansen as his main subject for the film, “Examine and Report”, which is later shown at the Fort Myers Film Festival winning “best local film.” The film highlights the influences that made Jansen's work what it is today; featuring art dealer Steve Lazarides, Robert Rauschenberg's art fabricator Lawrence Voytek, Art Historian Dr Brooke Lynn Mcgowan and Jansen's second biggest collector Dieter Rampl, chairman of the Hypo-Kunsthalle Munich.
2016 - 2017
Jansen’s strongest influence over his molding years; His father, mentor and close friend Hans Jansen, dies only four months before Jansen’s first solo museum exhibition in Europe at La Triennale di Milano Museum. The show “DECADE - paintings from the last ten years” dominates headlines and makes the critics pick as top ten shows to see in Italy. The exhibition is inaugurated by Dr Elmar Zorn, curated by Dr Brooke Lynn McGowan and co-curated by Rossella Farinotti. The same year, Jansen's book, Marcus Jansen DECADE, is published by Skira Editore in Milan. The ten year retrospective of works created over the last decade is released worldwide.
The German art book publisher Hirmer Verlag Munich follows suite and publishes Jansen's first International German/English language book for his German museum tour in 2017 called Marcus Jansen Aftermath. The book includes text by Art critic Dr Manfred Schneckenburger, two time former curator of Documenta, Dr Dieter Ronte, former director of the Kunstmuseum Bonn, renowned art critic Gottfried Knapp from the Suddeutsche Zeitung and art curator Dr Elmar Zorn. Jansen’s first solo show in Germany takes place at Galerie Kellermann Dusseldorf, following a solo appearance at Art Karlsruhe, Kloster Kirche Traunstein introduced by Dr Birgit Loeffler Director of Das Maximum Museum and a solo show at Kunsthalle Kunst und Kultur Hohenaschau where Jansen meets renowned collector Udo Brandhorst one of Germany's top collectors and the owner of Museum Brandhorst. In addition Jansen exhibits ten large works as featured artist at the Kallmann Museum Ismaning with three other painters. Jansen meets Oscar nominated filmmaker Emanuel Rund of the 1980’s film “Andy Warhol Lucky Star” at his reception.