Mitchell-Innes & Nash presents Love Letters and Yard Work, two concurrent exhibitions of new work by Eddie Martinez at the gallery’s Chelsea and Madison Avenue locations.
These two shows mark the first time Martinez’s work has been exhibited in New York following the opening of his solo exhibitions at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and at The Drawing Center, New York in Fall 2017.
The Love Letter series expands upon Martinez’s recent practice of utilizing enlarged silkscreens of small Sharpie drawings as a starting point for works on canvas. Martinez’s daily drawing practice has long been a significant source of inspiration for his painting. Of his drawings, the artist says, “I carry them around and poach different marks and moves. Some of them go straight onto my ‘drawing wall,’ which at times houses up to 500 drawings all mashed up on and over each other.” The artists’ drawing wall is the subject of Martinez’s recent exhibition at The Drawing Center. Curator Claire Gillman invited Martinez to recreate the floor-to-ceiling salon-style installation of works on paper in an immersive room, covering the four walls of The Drawing Center’s gallery. Paintings were hung on top of the drawings to highlight the formal connections between the two mediums.
With the Love Letter works, Martinez mines his own drawing practice to create a sense of speed, clarity and simplicity of line and form in his large-scale paintings. He then builds up dense and energetic layers of color using a variety of materials ranging from acrylic, oil, spray and enamel paints alongside collaged canvases and studio debris such as thumb tacks, wet wipes or the lids of paint cans. Cartoonish figures and forms are packed with high-speed brushstrokes and occasionally obscured by multiple layers of overpainting. The compositions contain an inherent contradiction: a childlike simplification of a form executed in a confident, muscular line.
Martinez investigates questions of seriality and repetition, specifically the ways in which the same form can manifest. A vast majority of the Love Letter paintings are executed at the same size. Occasionally, a single drawing will become the blueprint for two or more paintings. Recurring forms, purposely obscured, crop up across the body of work: a potted flower, a head in a helmet, a robotic body, a mushroom. One can trace these forms throughout years of Martinez’s practice; they become letters in his own visual language. Martinez bends the implications of seriality by rejecting the guidelines imposed by the silkscreen, often concealing the initial outline entirely.
Yard Work is a separate but related body of work created during the summer of 2017 on Long Island. Unable to find a studio to rent for the summer, Martinez began to paint on the lawn outside his home. He then allowed these paintings to dry there, exposed to the elements. Upon very close inspection, the paintings have accrued leaves, grass and insects. Although these compositions did not originate as drawings, Martinez uses the spray can as a drawing tool, creating compositions that range from completely abstract to figurative still lives.