In Heaven is a Prison, McKnight describes a queer otherworld that is at once utopic and purgatorial – occupied by a solitary pair of copulating, Sisyphean protagonists that appear both liberated and bound by their intimacies, and the severe expanse in which they are depicted.
Divided into chapters, the poetic sequences in this book oscillate between the literal and the figurative, between distance and communion, and between violence and affection. Claustrophobic, horizonless landscapes are coupled with images of ethereal clouds and tangled bodies that are simultaneously sculptural, shrewd, and tender.
Through his synonymous description of landscape and body, McKnight suggests metaphor, pointing at both as vehicles – towards transcendence, bondage, beauty, and abjection – while also revealing them as two sides of the same coin.
Heaven is a Prison is the recipient of the 2020 Light Work Photobook Award, given annually to an artistic project that deserves international attention.
Mark McKnight is a Los Angeles-based artist who has exhibited and published work throughout the United States and in Europe. Recent solo exhibitions include Mark McKnight (Aperture Foundation, 2020) and in this temporarily prevailing landscape (Klaus von Nichtssagend, 2020). His work has been written about in Aperture, Art in America, BOMB Magazine, and The New Yorker. Mark is the recipient of the 2019 Aperture Portfolio Prize, the 2020 Light Work Photo Book Award, and a 2020 Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant. He is currently represented by Klaus von Nichtssagend, New York and Park View/Paul Soto, Los Angeles.
All images:© Mark McKnight 2020 courtesy Loose Joints & Light Work