Greg Mahoney grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California with a BFA degree in 1980. His art has grown from his lifelong immersion in nature and the wide open spaces of the American West. Untrained in science, skeptical of information presented as fact, Mahoney is a careful observer who travels to geologically fascinating sites, gathers materials, and then attempts to simulate the power of natural forces.
His is a slow art. He takes his time arriving at what he wants to do. The art, in turn, evolves while nature takes its course. Instead of beginning with a blank canvas, he typically fabricates a panel from found steel or casts a slab of cement or salt. These panels are later subjected to the elements and often combined with other materials to make abstractions or panels taht contain images of the earth. The colors and patterns in Pluvial Abstractions, for example, were made by rainwater washing over steel bars and depositing rust on cement. Steel sections in Mahoney’s work are left outside to rust or are dampened down in his studio. “I control the situation, but the rest is open to chance,” he says.
Whether inherently or overtly, Mahoney’s work addresses the passage of time. His early pieces were relatively spare, often focusing on horizon lines. Recently he has incorporated a fossil-like image of a fish skeleton and a globe, depicted in successive rotations or cut apart and spread out flat. Sea Land which presents those two words in block letters on a rusty panel made from part of an old water tank is a re-creation of rubber mud-guard.
Many artists who make art about nature have a political agenda, but Mahoney talks about spiritual content and follows his own muse. He says the only artist who has influenced his work is Robert Smithson, who inspired him to approach the world on his own terms. “I’m not pushing my politics on anyone,” Mahoney says. “I want to provoke contemplation of nature and trigger thoughts that extend outside of my work.”
Artnews November 1991.
Works in Our Collection
Rust, gesso, salt and charcoal, 1990
22 x 46 inches
Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust