A Minute With: Street artist Mark Jenkins

Wed Feb 1, 2012 11:04am EST
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - American street artist Mark Jenkins's human sculptures staged in provocative poses in the middle of cities have proved so uncannily life-like they have sparked calls from passersby to the ambulance service or the police.

Dressed casually in a black baseball cap, baggy trousers and sneakers, the softly spoken Jenkins told Reuters he started his career by placing a figure in a refuse dump in Rio de Janeiro to draw attention to children living in the streets.

The 41-year-old, who has worked as a saxophonist and web designer prior to becoming one of the foremost artists in the street installation movement -- based on surprising people with the unexpected in a familiar urban environment -- wants people to look up for a second from their mobile phones and engage with the world around them.

Not all his installations are charged with social critique. One entire series consists of sculptures made using the casts of baby dolls installed in cheeky situations. One baby was placed on an underwear billboard to appear to be suckling a woman's breast. Others could be found climbing trees.

Jenkins was in Berlin to launch his first monograph "The Urban Theater" and to open his first solo gallery show in Germany, "Glazed Paradise," which runs until Feb 26.

While his works, made with thick, transparent, box-sealing tape then sometimes clothed are primarily made for interaction on the street, the exhibition includes both photographs of installations in situ and some new sculptures.

Q: How did you start making tape sculptures?

A: "I started off making balls in tape and soon I made a cast of my whole arm in tape. I decided to wrap my whole body in tape, but I wrapped the tape around my torso too tight, the hairs got caught, so I started cutting myself out which was really bloody - and thought I was going to die! From then on I used a mannequin torso, still using my own body for the legs."   Continued...