Mark Dagley (b. 1957, Washington D.C.) is a visual artist who studied painting and sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art, and painting, video and electronic music at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He currently studies classical guitar privately and Music Theory in the evening division at The Juilliard School.
Dagley has exhibited his work internationally for the past three decades, including in North America, Europe, and Australasia. During the 1980s, he was active in the East Village abstract painting scene and showed alongside other pioneering abstract painters, including Barry X Ball, Max Gimblett, Olivier Mosset, James Nares, Stephen Parrino, Li Trincere, and Alan Uglow, among many others. His first solo exhibition took place in 1987, at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York City.
In 1993 Dagley had his first Museum exhibition at the Kunstverein St. Gallen, Switzerland. In the same year, he received his first major commission from Hoffman/LaRoche Pharmaceuticals: two wall reliefs, nine-foot square, which were installed in their new office building outside of Basel. His work was included in the groundbreaking group exhibition Post-Hypnotic, which traveled throughout the United States from 1999-2001. His work Concentric Sequence (1996) was featured on the cover of the exhibition catalog.
During his career, Dagley has worked with a number of influential galleries worldwide, including Tony Shafrazi Gallery (NYC), Galerie Hans Strelow (Dusseldorf, Germany), Galeria Mar Estrada (Madrid, Spain), and Galerie Swart (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). More recently he has exhibited his work at Anna Kustera Gallery (NYC), The Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts (Long Branch, NJ), The Suburban (Chicago, IL), Daniel Weinberg Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Instituto de Artes Graficas (Oaxaca, Mexico), ParisCONCRET (Paris, France), Galeria Leyendecker (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain), and Musee des beaux-arts de La Chaux-de-Fonds (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland).
His work can be found in the collections of the Cafritz Foundation, Collection Doberman, Oppenheim & Co, R.H. Peterson, University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the Musée des Beaux Arts La Chaud de Fonds, Credit-Suisse, Hoffman/LaRoche, Henkel GmbH, EMI Madrid, Bloomingdales Corporation, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Buenos Aires and Muzeum umení Olomouc, Czech Republic.
His most recent exhibitions were at, Spencer Brownstone Gallery (2017), MACBA (2015), Galerie Caesar (2015), The Museum of Geometric & Madi Art (2013), Kent Place Gallery (2012), Minus Space (2012)
Before there was art:
Growing up, I liked collecting rocks and fossils, breeding tropical fish and playing classical guitar. I began painting seriously as a teenager and my goal was to become a professional artist.
I had an instructor in high school named Raymond Wilkins who was a fine oil painter and proficient in all mediums. He was a very passionate teacher. He introduced me to the world of art and encouraged me to investigate the local scene: the Washington Color School. I was particularly drawn to the work of Gene Davis, Morris Louis and Anne Truitt.
[Dagley also took classes with Ed McGowin and attended the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design while still in high school and later studied painting, video and electronic music at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.]
Colorists and Mannerists:
Color has always been a primary interest of mine and the Venetian colorists—Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto—maintain their appeal. I’ve also always enjoyed Mannerist art: Bronzino, Ghirlandaio, Parmigianino. The mythological and overworked hyper-detailed paintings of Joachim Wtewael are especially fascinating.
Schooled by color:
Having grown up in Washington D.C. when I did, I couldn’t help but be influenced by the Color School. Their discoveries and use of materials continue to inform my work. Like the Mannerists, their compositions seem to constantly change dimensionality.
A certain type of magic:
Painters are probably the most vexed by their own work. Even the smallest change can cause a total reworking of a painting. Many times a painting takes on a life of its own and a certain type a magic occurs. It starts telling the artist what needs to be done.
Qualities musical and otherwise:
Since I am also a musician, I tend to use elements and techniques of composition and performance in my visual art. Many color decisions are based on triad awareness, for example the use of red, yellow and blue or orange, green and purple. With the addition of white or black for mixing, the possibilities are endless.
The qualities I take into consideration when making a painting are repetition and the speed at which images affect the eye, how form and structure affect the body, and how color choices affect all of the above.
[Dagley still studies music at The Juilliard School, has a book and music publishing venture, Abaton Book Company, which he runs with his wife Lauri Bortz, and while living and studying art in Boston, started the art-rock post-punk band The Girls, which also featured artist George Condo, and later on formed the Hi Sheriffs of Blue.]
The 10,000 Dot Rule:
Each series of work contains a motif. Sometime that motif may be the shape of the canvas itself or just a single color. I may focus on the repetition of a dot, but I’ll use tens of thousand of dots to get the effect I need. This creates a faster paced painting, one that can be seen in a glance. If I want to slow things down, I’ll focus on a series of shapes that force the eye to follow a contour.
I like to create design elements which initiate a composition. My work is a type of visual architecture that allows a narrative of surprise and improvisation to occur. It has a beginning, middle and end; therefore, it’s never truly abstract.
Seeing things not as they are:
A small child once referred to a three-stepped floor sculpture with a high gloss surface as a “Glass Mountain.” That perception, bordering on the psychedelic, seeing something as it was not, was my favorite description of a specific work.
[Dagley has works at the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art in Dallas, at the Collection Doberman, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Cafritz Foundation, among many others.]