Artist Eddie Martinez has returned to Mitchell-Innes & Nash this month, bringing two different bodies of work to the gallery’s two exhibition spaces in Chelsea and Uptown. These two shows mark the first time Martinez’s work has been exhibited in New York since major solo exhibitions at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and at The Drawing Center, New York, and signal a continuation of themes explored in those shows. Martinez’s work, which draws on languages of modernist painting while abstracting its language through varied techniques and imaginative approaches to the canvas.
The first series of works, Yard Work, showcases Martinez’s willingness to allow varied processes to intrude on the surface of his pieces. First painting in his signature style, all loping curved brushstrokes and splatters of paint swirling about the canvas, Martinez then left his pieces on his lawn to dry. Playing on the same incorporative fervor that would mark many of Jackson Pollock’s works (which would catch matches, cigarettes and other bits of cast-off material), Martinez’s pieces have accumulated bits of grass, splotches of water, and even the odd insect, leaving it as a strange crossover between a painted canvas and something of an abstracted screen print. Rather than use the paint as a translating agent, however, the artist’s work captures the environment quite literally, transferring its raw material to the composition.
By contrast, the Love Letter series builds on Martinez’s practice of utilizing enlarged silkscreens of small Sharpie drawings as a starting point for works on canvas. Once again, the silkscreen emerges as a central operational metaphor, here turning the image itself into an analog of its initial form, and using that as a guiding principle. His drawings here are magnified and expanded, turned into massive hulks of paint that seem quite similar in execution to his works on view in his Yard Work series. Martinez then embellishes these works with thick coats of paint, a technique that turns varied masses of line into swirls of color and abstracted forms. Translated through such a labor-intensive process, Martinez’s work pulls a familiar language of abstract painting through the ringer of physical processes and innovative conceptual operations.
For Martinez, both bodies of work seem to pull at the thread of abstraction and the artist’s practice more broadly as an almost endless series of static operations. Translation, expansion, enlargement or incorporation all take a separate turn on these pieces, yet are presented not merely as potentials for the painter alone. Instead, Martinez proposes a canvas where the end result can have any number of varying relationships to the original work, a concept that leaves room for both the artist, and the viewer, to dream.
The artist’s work is on view through February 24th.
— D. Creahan
Eddie Martinez: Love Letters Yard Work [Mitchell-Innes & Nash]