Pigeons, Shit, Tampons, Heroin, and Vomit: Mark Jenkins’ “Purple Splendor”

Purple Splendor monkey FlyerI first discovered Mark Jenkins‘ work about 1 1/2 years ago and I didn’t like it.  Sifting through the January 2008 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine, I came across, what I believed to be, a lot more intriguing work.  There was a page on pop-surrealist GregCraolaSimkins‘ “I’m Scared” exhibit,  painter/low-rider bike artist Dzine‘s tricked out ski-boat called Dnipro (equipped with a DJ set up, lazers, smoke machine, 9 TVs, etc), and a spread/interview with illustrator/inker/digital artsit Tomer Hanuka.  In the mix with all of the rest of the great features in the magazine, Jenkins‘ work was lost for me.

His photographs of young girls shoved in a locker or sitting on the ledge of a building weren’t very thought provoking.  There was one of a woman passed out with her face in a plate of food in the middle of a cafeteria, but it just seemed very “high school” to me; a little bit edgy, but nothing new or particularly magnificent.

It probably took about a week or two of me reading through the other articles before I noticed something that I hadn’t before and which made me take a second look.  It was a picture of a man leaning towards a concrete building with his head embedded into the side of it.  After reading the interview with him and looking over the images again, I found out two things that gave me a completely different perspective and a ridiculous amount of appreciation for Mark Jenkins and his art.

1) Jenkins work is not really photography based at all.
2) Those weren’t even real people in those pictures.

Mark Jenkins is a DC-based street artist.  The “people” photographed in the images are actually sculptures that have been cast out of packing tape.  The sculptures began while Jenkins was teaching English in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  The position allowed for a lot of off-time and, after he was messing around and cast himself in tape one day, he began placing fully-clothed versions around town in confusing situations that would invoke double-takes from passersby.  The picture of the woman who appeared to be past out dead in her cafeteria tray was actually one of these sculptures that was left in a public cafeteria in Brazil.  The woman left on top of the building was being used to symbolize a narrator for a short film that Jenkins and his girlfriend were making.  They left it up there for a little while to get more footage and, when they returned, it had already been “rescued” by the fire department, due to numerous 911 calls.  In the interview, Jenkins said the following about his work:

I think my outdoor work has to be called litter.  I mean, I leave them out there without any intentions of getting them back

It’s hard to explain without seeing them so, here are 2 examples with video footage of pedestrian reactions, or rather, the lack thereof.

Washington, DC June 2006

Mark Jenkins embed

“All You Can Eat”
SESC Pinheiros in São Paulo, Brazil 2007

Mark Jenkins All You Can Eat

“Hobo Polar Bear”
Columbia Heights Metro station in Washington DC, Sept. 2008

Hobo Polar Bear
Last year, Jenkins collaborated with Greenpeace to do a series of public installations around the Washington DC area.  The project consisted of multiple polar bear figures resembling the homeless and was meant to bring attention to the growing issues surrounding the melting ice caps.  The photo above is of what became the most famous of those polar bear sculptures.  It was placed outside of a train station, which was later shut down for a couple of hours due to the polar bear being deemed a “suspicious package”.  The figure to the right is a member of the bomb squad.

Purple Splendor

purple splendor exhibition view

A couple of weeks ago I found a random email that had been lost in my spam filter.  It looked like a message sent from one person that I didn’t know to another person that I’ve never heard of.  I deleted the rest of the messages but noticed that the subject in the heading read “Mark Jenkins exhibition purple splendor“.  I didn’t know how the sender had found me but, after opening the email, it was definitely about the same Mark Jenkins that I had suspected and hoped that it was.  Along with the email was an attachment with a flyer for an art exhibit in Vienna, Austria.  I replied to the sender about the event and requested more information about it.  I didn’t hear back at first but, just recently, I received the an email which included the following:

sorry for the very late reply, thanks a lot for your interest in the mark jenkins purple splendor exhibition. its marks first solo show in vienna.

the exhibition features classical mark jenkins sculptures as well as new work. the new work is a collection of streetfinds from his time in vienna. mark built the collages in the gallery showing a good example how streetart works in the white cube.

below are some pieces from the exhibition.

Mark jenkins purple splendor, exhibition
Vienna, Austria 2009 ,
Curated by Apocalyptic Colors

edition of 5, installation, vienna, austria 2009


Purple Splendor,
1/1, installation, vienna, austria 2009

purple splendor
purple splendor detail a
purple splendor detail

Mini Trasher
edition of 5, installation, vienna, austria 2009

mini trasher

edition of 5, installation, vienna, austria 2009
mark jenkins puker

1/1, installation, vienna, austria 2009


1/1, installation, vienna, austria 2009

umbrella detail

Street Sign
1/1, installation, vienna, austria 2009


installation, vienna, austria 2009


Purple Shit
1/1, installation, vienna, austria 2009

purple shit: didn’t make it through the exhibition

smashed shit

[All exhibit photos featured above are courtesy of Sydney Ogidan]

More Information sent in follow up emails about the event:

The gallery name is Ve.Sch which means something like, smart, smooth, posh and is the new art room right now in Vienna, exhibitions change almost every week.

“Apocalyptic colors is a colective from vienna that curates, produces and teaches art.”

“…Music was part of the welcoming session.  The band were Gypsies who are street musicians in Vienna.”

I was also provided a link to the following photos which were shot by Tobi Leingruber (aka: Mr. Pirates of the Amazon)
Mark Jenkins purple splendor guitar
Mark Jenkins Purple Splendor Accordian
(For the rest of his Flickr set, please CLICK HERE)

Jenkins has a variety of different art, beyond what we’ve featured in this article and beyond just tape sculpture.  We suggest that you check it out.  ALL OF IT!

The “Mobile” installation  in the Purple Splendor exhibit is part of Jenkins‘ “Storker Project“.  He tape casts dolls and places them in crazy random public locations.  To go to Mark’s DIY site, watch video, and get step by step instructions on how to make sculptures in the same fashion, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW of the blinking infant.


Mark’s official site
Mark’s Youtube page
Ve.Sch Gallery on myspace (you’ll need to translate it yourself)

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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