Mark Zubrovich: Stick It Out And Touch Your Cleats

Mark Zubrovich

Artwork’s Title: Stick it out and touch your cleats

Materials Used: Acrylic, Flashe, and iridescent fabric paint on raw canvas

Year: 2019

Studio Based: Freeport, NY

Mark Zubrovich, Stick it out and touch your cleats, 2019, acrylic, flashe, and iridescent fabric paint on raw canvas

Art Verge

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Mark Zubrovich

This painting came together quickly, but had a lot of downtime. Some pieces happen quicker than others, especially with the sprayed mark having such an efficiency to it. A professor once told me years ago to “take your paintings for a walk”. This one spent a lot of time lying on the floor. The struggle I had with this piece was how to bring two painting languages together. I use my airbrush extensively, but it’s a very indirect way of making a mark. I wanted to touch it more directly.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Baseball dog melodrama (alternatively “man’s best friend”).

Would you use another three different words to describe the ‘Stick it out and touch your cleats’ painting?

Relax those glutes!

How did you come up with this painting idea? Is there any story behind this painting?

I genuinely love watching baseball. The game is fascinating and cerebral, and there is a communal aspect to the participation in the fandom of it all. But there’s a voyeurism that comes with watching the action of professional sports. I enjoy tapping into that gaze in the paintings. Blurring the lines between what’s a traditionally masculine power move and what’s an act of queer desire. What’s a human move and what’s a dog move. Crying, stretching, biting, cuddling. “Locker room” actions. The way athletes have permission to hug and squeeze and slap each other’s behinds. The performance of ‘boys being boys’. The secret language of homosocial spaces.

Is it ok to snicker at baseball equipment being used as a phallic image? Is it ok to be staring at that athlete’s butt as he stretches? This pup’s response to this query is that he bends over, tail raised, and touches his cleats. His doggy face defiant with his furrowed eyebrows and anti-glare paint streaked on his cheeks. Hell yeah you can stare!

What colour is used the most in this painting?

A warm orange-red makes up the pup’s fuzzy fur and the ground he’s stretching on. Everything else is either a light pink or a dark earthy green, with some raw canvas showing through. Somewhere along the line this painting became a balancing act of these colors.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

Grass on the floor, shoes optional. Free tallboys.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

In my freshman year of college Dana Schutz had a 10 year retrospective at the museum attached to our Art and Design building. So she’s always stuck up there in my head somewhere. Other painters I love recently are Jim Nutt, Paul Cadmus, and Grace Weaver. Been looking at a disproportionate amount of Bruce Nauman the past few months as well. He’s a real sensitive cowboy.

How do you know when this painting was finished?

I think this painting was finished when the pup got his elbow pads. Before that he felt too exposed! They’re painted much thicker than the rest of the painting. They stick off the canvas whereas the rest of the paints have sunken into the weave. The elbows took several days to dry, and that downtime made me realize the image was legible without any more bells and whistles. He was just exposed enough!

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

My studio space for the past few years has been a converted annex in my childhood bedroom. It’s a very small space that can’t fit much. The hardwood floor is covered in paint stains going back years. I have a record player, an old laptop, and an iPad I play podcasts on when I’m using my rickety airbrush. Most of my paints sit in a chunky green chest with the Boy Scouts insignia imprinted on top.

Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this painting?

Stick it out and touch your cleats!

What does your mum think about your art?

My parents are very religious. My mom loves the cute dogs! My dad likes them when they’re subtle.

Which exhibition did you visit last?

Austin Lee’s “Feels Good” at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in Manhattan. Austin’s work is incredible!

Which are your plans for the near future?

I’m currently packing up this bedroom studio for good. My family is moving out of this house. I’ll be hopping from studio to studio for a while, continuing to expand on whatever ideas come in that process. I’ll be the artist in residence at Bunker Projects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the spring, and at the James Black Gallery in Vancouver, BC in the summer. After that, I guess I’m a free agent.

Additional Works

Mark Zubrovich, Hit By Pitch, 2018, acrylic on hemp paper, 9 x 12
Mark Zubrovich, Goodboys Field, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 45 x 60
Mark Zubrovich, Ball Gag, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14
Mark Zubrovich, Slugger, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 52 x 60

© All images are courtesy of the artist

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