Sticking To The Shadows: Masterful Tapework

Next time you're about to ball up a strip of tape and shoot for the garbage can, Stop. Put that piece of tape across the front of a lightbox. Then, layer on hundreds of other pieces of ordinary tape and create a captivating portrait of Alfred Hitchock, purely through the manipulation of light and shadow. If you manage to do that, then you will end up with something that looks a lot like the art of Mark Khaisman. 



The Ukrainian born artist has spent his life bringing beauty out of nothingness, likening his artistic process to the reverse of peeling an onion. Instead of stripping layers away and ending with nothing, he begins with emptiness and carefully piles layers of tape until an image is revealed. The amount of tape that he applies affects the opacity (see-through-ness) of the material. Eventually, different shades of color begin to emerge through the colored tape; eyes and jawlines become defined, and emotions are somehow born from the squared-off edges of the strips.

Cubism, made famous by Pablo Picasso, suggested ideas through overlapping shapes and geometry, but Khaisman's staggeringly emotive portraits leave little to the imagination, despite the limited nature of their material. Thus, with with nothing more than a lightbox, a roll of tape, and the mind of a chess master thinking twenty steps ahead, Johnny Carson gradually appears. 




His art is different from others in that he can add or subtract with the ease of a single pull or a firm press.  If a mistake is immediately recognized, it can be corrected quite easily. However, if the mistake is only noticed later, after being buried beneath further layers of the process, the challenge of fixing it becomes far more complex than simply painting over a blunder, or disguising an errant brushstroke as a wisp of cloud. Khaisman is forced to integrated each strip of tape in the ultimate product, once again adding to the eternal discussion of permanence vs. flexibility in visual art.

His subject matter is often pulled from film noir, and the color and texture of his chosen medium, tape, are the perfect vehicle for creating that mood. The overall effect is rough, aged, and segmented, while the subject matter of the poorly pixelated, yet evocative, images are still recognizable to viewers. This visual aesthetic transports viewers to a time where other imperfect mediums dominated popular culture and art. For example, Khaisman's humble nod to Hitchcock's masterpiece, Psycho, is strengthened by it's gritty naturalism, jagged edges, and stark simplicity.


Bates MotelBates Motel


Tape Noir 34 - TelephonesTape Noir 34 - Telephones


Khaisman's reinvention of certain dark remnants from America's artistic past remain relevant and powerful for viewers all around the world. His work has recently been exhibited everywhere from prominent art fairs in New York to private galleries in Korea. He is also holding a solo exhibition in Philadelphia beginning on March 1st, 2013. His paradoxically simple yet complex art proves that the old can always be made new, and that the boundaries of artistic media are always being widened by the power of creativity.

Like Cool Art? See what else tickles my fancy at Art Outside The Lines. 

To see more of Khaisman's sticky brilliance, visit his website. 

All image rights and copyrights reserved by the artist.