How Mark Khaisman Makes History Out of Packing Tape
Harnessing everyday materials such as plexiglass and translucent packing tape, Ukraine-born artist Mark Khaisman has made a career out of luminous recreations of iconic images of Bond girls, Julius Caesar, and stills from old Hollywood films. The tape master has a unique process—he applies strips of brown translucent tape to a clear backlit acrylic panel until a pattern emerges, an activity he compares to developing photos in a dark room.
After a certain amount of layers, the light shining through begins to wane, and Khaisman is able to manipulate light, shadow, and depth. He claims the most difficult part of this process is recognizing the ideal stopping point.
Khaisman, who describes his work as “painting with light,” utilizes materials that are ephemeral in order to recreate famous portraits, juxtaposing the disposable with the iconic. Once illuminated, the works convey a sense of idolatry with their simplistic compositions and golden hues. Khaisman cites his Soviet upbringing as one of his main creative inspirations: “I was growing up without expectation to see much outside of the Iron Curtain; probably this is when imaginary replaced reality. I’m after an Imaginary City.”
In this “Imaginary City,” he reimagines stills from movies, photographs, propaganda art and historical figures, and is especially inspired by the look of Noir films from the 1940s and ’50s. Though his work is only derived from previously used images, he sees these images as part of a shared collective memory that beckons to be continually reinterpreted.
In 2013, Khaisman appropriated the image of the much-sought-after Birkin Bag, and by depicting the fashionable bag using tape, questioned the commodification of designer clothing during the economic recession. By representing the expensive bag using disposable materials, Khaisman in turn criticized materialism in both the fashion and art world—just as his renderings of historical icons suggest the transience of our cultural obsessions.