Notforthem artist-designer Marcarson feels no apprehension about voicing dissent. This includes criticizing other creatives who are considered the best in the game. 

“My focus is on art and fashion, and I feel like some kind of change needs to happen in both of these worlds because everything is getting kind of lazy,” he says. “For example, people who say Virgil Abloh is a genius are being lazy. I just don’t see what the talent is. There are just so many other talented people out there who didn’t have that opportunity he has.”

Abloh, the founder of Off White and artistic director at Louis Vuitton, is a favorite of PRØHBTD and most everyone else, so the criticism comes as a surprise. Marcarson, who cited womenswear designer Simone Rocha as someone he does appreciate, seems disinterested in the legacy brands in general. When asked about major fashion brands getting into streetwear, he seems to suggest it’s a sign of how far the luxury brands have fallen behind. 

“I think [the transition into streetwear] was needed,” he says. “Nowadays, to stay relevant, all these luxury brands are going more into streetwear, and I guess that’s the only way they can stay alive. I’m not really sure why they’re doing it this way. I like the days when high fashion wasn’t meant for everyone.”

The 37-year-old artist-designer (his birth certificate reads Mark Carson) grew up in Los Angeles where he spent eight years running his own brand, Caviar & Cigarettes, which he describes as streetwear inspired by Comme des Garcons and Vivienne Westwood. Eleven years ago, he moved to New York. 

“I wanted to try something different from Los Angeles because I grew up there,” he says. “New York had always been a dream to start something fresh, to see if it will work out here.”

Marcarson, who started making art in 2016, created Notforthem as an art house that encompasses all of his creative endeavors with visual arts at the forefront. He describes his style as “avant-garde comedy,” which reflects the layered commentary inherent in many of his pieces. In addition to art and a line of fashion “basics,” he sometimes spins “eclectic dance floor” music at his events and hosts Notforthem nights every Tuesday at the Jane Hotel in Manhattan. In the next month or so, he’ll open a Notforthem art house in downtown Manhattan, though his latest show, Sex, Lies and Cassette Tapes, opens March 5 at the Ilegal Mezcal distillery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. 

“With everything that’s going on now in our culture, I thought it would be fun to point out a few things that I guess we’re kind of over or that we’re getting used to seeing in our society,” he says of the show.

The Journey of Man (image above) is one of the pieces he describes as epitomizing this theme. He continues, “It shows a woman holding a man and throwing him in the trash. I feel like men in general have done a lot so far to screw themselves over and people aren’t standing for it anymore.”

The new artwork also features the Notforthem trademark: circles over the eyes, an upside heart over the nose and a new set of teeth. 

“It’s the free face,” Marcarson explains. “It’s a mask I put over ads or paintings or other people’s faces. What if you put this mask on and then you can say whatever you want to say because now you’ll be safe to say it? It’s like an alter ego. I feel like everyone wants to say something, but it can be difficult with everyone being extremely sensitive these days.”

The “free face” also appears in several colonial-style images with white men wearing durags and making statements like “Rap Enthusiast” and “Tax the Poor.” The original images appear in paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in NYC, but Marcarson added modern spins that include a dig at the appropriation of black culture. 

“I was reading something and then thought about this streetwear brand that’s really doing well,” he explains. “I thought, ‘I bet there’s a white guy behind all of this.’ That’s where it started. There are white men behind all of this, like record labels and fashion, who are okaying ideas. I put them in durags, [exploiting] black culture.”

The strangest inspiration, though, belongs to pieces that feature cassette tapes. 

“I got done watching that OJ Simpson TV series, I forgot what it was called, and I found a box of old cassette tapes as I was walking home,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Shit, what if this cassette tape has OJ Simpson’s confession on it?’ and I went from there. I started implementing things from culture, like there’s one about Harvey Weinstein, but I pulled the tape out so it’s hiding what’s on there.”

As his new show might suggest, Marcarson wants his art to be “up front and truthful but not harsh,” though he admits the Notforthem name came about because not everyone appreciates his honesty. 

“I work in many different things like fashion, music and art, and I tried to do these things working for other people, but they didn’t really appreciate what I was doing,” he concludes. “I created Notforthem because what I do is not for people who don’t appreciate other people’s talents.”

In other words, Notforthem is a party for creatives, and haters and doubters aren’t invited.

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