Artistfacts: Eddie Martinez
Snap, crackle and pop. The works by Eddie Martinez combine cartoon figures, pop art designs, luscious brush strokes, heavy impasto layers and blocks of vivid colors into vibrant canvases. The works are alive, full of motion and action. His larger works are the more powerful and encompassing. There is a happy, fanciful, at times childish exuberance, almost recklessness to the art. Though usually large (96″by 75″ in the case of Love Letter#13), his works have the intimacy of drawings.
In his last show at Mitchell-Innes &Nash , Love Letters, the works appeared as if made on a giant notepad, with his address on the bottom and his name and that of his wife, Sam Moyer at the top. According to the gallery press release, Eddie Martinez used silkscreened, blown up small Sharpie drawings as a starting point for the works on canvas. He then built up dense layers of colors using a wide variety of materials, acrylic, oil, spray and enamel paints alongside collaged canvases and studio elements- thumb tacks, wipes, the lids of paint cans, an icy/hot patch, gum. These works are mesmerizing and enchanting.
The paintings combine the spontaneity of a doodle, with the strong painterly strokes of abstract expressionism. As opposed to Basquiat there are few words in the pieces. However, he shares with Basquiat the bold lines, vivid colors and a personal iconography.
In his practice over the past five years, Eddie Martinez has moved from the figurative to the more abstract. His figurative works were never realistic. His iconography then as now was grounded in comics and graffiti. Figures with large eyes, clowns, what may be an elbow or a shoulder, coiled snakes, vases of flowers, talk balloons filled with images instead of words, skulls, ducks, warriors with oversized eyes. All of his work then and now filled with an urgency of action, strength, movement and confidence. Today’s works are simply more open and fluid, less easily read.
In an article in Ocula, Martinez has referred to his process as that of boxing, approaching the canvas like his opponent, stepping forward to make contact with the canvas and then stepping back to regroup before he connects again.
Eddie Martinez has spoken of his daily drawing practice and his desire to make paintings that feel like drawings. As a result he carries pen and paper with him at all times and is constantly drawing. One wall in his studio is covered with these drawings. As he works on a canvas, he takes some of them down as inspiration or source material and several of them may end up in one composition. In the final work, sometimes the drawing is completely obliterated, sometimes it does not. The process is one of scraping, erasing, carving and layering. The finish is wild and furious. Blacked out backgrounds, impasto, drips and mixed media thrown together. Colors are applied aggressively and combined much like in a work by Miro. The combination is captivating.
In a few of the works, mainly the Mandela series that were part of the show Ants at a Picknic, the final product is more faithful to the initial drawings and seem more a case of coloring between the lines. These works are large circular paintings and collages prominently displaying the artist’s initials EM.
The titles of the paintings are Cowboy Town, Blue Stump, Wave Rider, Intergalactic Go Fish, Hat Closet, Open Life, Mini Fresh Direct….evocative more of a feeling than a story.
I have not seen his sculptures which are apparently made of styrofoam, cardboard and metal scraps, objects found on the beach in Long Island, wood, plaster, plastic, paint, and epoxy and are now also being made into painted bronze and range in scale from 10 1/2″ x 14 1/4″ to 85″x65″. Like the more recent paintings, they are light and fanciful and I look forward to seeing them.
Eddie Martinez was born in 1977 in Connecticut and had a nomadic childhood, moving from Connecticut to California, Florida, Texas and Massachasetts. He is basically self taught as a painter but clearly has absorbed the influences of Basquiat, De Kooning, Miro. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Eddie Martinez has an upcoming solo show at the Bronx Museum scheduled for November 2018 that I am looking forward to.
I am attaching two videos from Art21 on Youtube that show you the artist at work.