Eddie Martinez


Mar 8 — Apr 28 2013

The Journal Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Eddie Martinez "Matador." This is Martinez' second solo exhibition with the gallery.

The creation of Eddie Martinez' Matador paintings is a physical bout. At work, Martinez paces around the studio—blasting music, slapping on paint, sanding, scooping debris from the ground and smearing it into a layer of thick paint. Around him, the canvases lean against the walls, tall and wide like bulls, towering, and he bounces between them, working on up to eight paintings at once. "When I'm painting these," he says, "it feels like it's either me or the canvas who’s coming out the victor."

In his newest series, Martinez builds his abstractions from a "loosely fixed" cast of characters. He's sculpted these shapes to point toward something familiar without ever pointing directly at anything particular: the red slab, the yellow column, the black spade, and floating cube of deep blue. Sometimes, there's a rogue patch of canvas with the patina of an urban concrete wall.

In his older work these forms congealed into flowers, figures and tables filled with objects, but this new energy is looser, more liquid. From a distance, the paintings appear similar, with minor variations, up close every inch buzzes with nuanced detail—bleeding mineral spirits, gestural power sanding, a tight mess of scratches, a buried cough drop wrapper: a vocabulary of mark making that Martinez expands with every canvas.

Behind the creation of the Matador paintings are hundreds of studies—drawings done on his iPad or with crayon on paper. They are completed quickly and compulsively in an attempt at "exhausting the composition."

Martinez uses a spray paint can like other artists use a pencil. He thinks of the canvas as blank paper: For him, the ultimate goal is to achieve what he calls a "painted drawing"—a fully developed wet work with the immediate energy of a sketch. It's an elusive achievement he's sought for years.

He’s never been to a bullfight. Martinez finds them unappealing, but relates to the sweeping maneuvers and animalistic battle of the matador. He thrives in the conflict of painting, getting knocked around in the studio, leaving the aftermath on the canvas.
—Ross Simonini

Eddie Martinez (b.1977, Connecticut) lives and works in Brooklyn. He was recently featured in New York Close Up, Art 21’s documentary film series. In 2008 he was the recipient of the Bauernmarkt Residency from the Lenikus Collection in Vienna. Recent exhibitions include "Beginner Mind" at Bill Brady, Kansas City (2013), "Body Language," The Saatchi Gallery, London (2012); "New York Minute," Garage Center For Contemporary Culture, Moscow (2011); "Draw," Museo de la Cuidad de México, Mexico City (2010); "New York Minute," Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (2009); and "Panic Room: Works from the Dakis Joannou Collection," Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, Athens (2006). His work has been featured in Modern Painters, ARTINFO, The New York Times, Interview Magazine, The New York Sun, The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, ArtReview, Tokion Magazine, Loyal Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, and Art in America. A monograph on Martinez' work will be released by PictureBox in the fall of 2013.


Critic's Pick

By Christopher Howard, ill.
April 15, 2013

The title of Eddie Martinez’s exhibition, “Matador,” characterizes his new paintings as the outcome of a brute encounter between man and beast. These brawny canvases—measuring seven by ten feet apiece—burst with hastily applied spray paint, arbitrarily collaged gum wrappers and baby wipes, and viscous oil paint scraped and smudged with a wide palette knife and housepainter’s brush. The artist even defaces his impasto surfaces with an electric disc sander. Also demonstrable are the influences of Picasso and Miró, with whom Martinez shares a love of bold color, painterly gestures, and cartoonish forms, as well as the immediacy of illicit graffiti. What is unusual amid this macho expressiveness is the fact that all five paintings included in the show look more or less alike.

Each work consists of the same four interlocking shapes—small blue rectangle, central orange slab, tall yellow lump, and peculiar black form—on a white background but with variations in style, arrangement, and texture. The freest and messiest is Matador #3 (Street Fruit), 2013, especially compared to the relatively clean and sober Matador #8 (Joint Compound), 2013. The elements of Matador #5 (Prince Rebel 95), 2013, feel the most experimentally diffuse. But because Martinez created the series simultaneously rather than sequentially—numbers for the altogether ten paintings just indicate the order in which he completed them—determining the significance of the differences becomes tricky. Does the artist ever hit his stride or exhaust the motif? Can one painting be stronger than another? If Martinez is genuinely interested in critiquing originality, it’s only to jocularly wave a red cape at anyone foolish enough to come charging.

In street art, an arena from which Martinez draws inspiration, an identifiable tag or style that can be repeated ad infinitum is essential for legibility and notoriety; an alleged contradiction between unique and repetitive expression is beside the point. Similarly, the venerated tradition of bullfighting is as much a scripted (though unrehearsed) event as it is a contentious blood sport, with a bull’s seemingly unpredictable behavior read and exploited by an experienced foe who is less a daredevil than a highly trained showman. Besides, a matador who cannot repeat a successful performance usually meets his untimely demise.


Eddie Martinez "Matador" at The Journal Gallery

By Andrew Russeth, ill.
April 16, 2013

Periodically, sneakingly, the romantic figure of the brooding, hypermasculine painter resurfaces in the New York art world. He works alone in his studio, wrestling with his canvases. Eddie Martinez, who was born in 1977, is one of the most promising artists of his generation in that mold. He has made his name in the past few years creating, with ostensible effortlessness, messy yet sophisticated paintings that feature bug-eyed figures in craggy landscapes. His current show, at The Journal Gallery, represents a dramatic shift.

He has eschewed his tangles of oil and spray paint for raw abstraction, paring down his content to just four bulbous shapes, in red, blue, yellow and black, which he repeats on five white canvases, each 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Mr. Martinez handles those shapes slightly differently in each painting, altering the slope of their curves or their outlines, toying with their spacing, as if these gargantuan paintings are tossed-off sketches for some much larger project. In the process he abuses his canvases, scraping and scratching their surfaces, attacking them with a disc sander. He has strewn Trident and Ricola wrappers across them, and stuck on baby wipes printed with a swirling butterfly. In two of the paintings, eyes peek out from the red mass, the only hint of humanity.

In his approach to painting, one might think of Mr. Martinez as a seasoned chess player, speedily playing out the same endgame again and again, seeing if he can tease out the most elegant series of moves through close study, and eventually securing a brutal, exacting victory. But as they stand, the paintings look like five very elegant, admirable draws—stalemates between order and chaos, static forms and effervescent movement. Aiming to do more with less, he seems a little off-balance in these new works.

But these transitional moments in a career are part of the painterly myth. In fact, they’re vital to it. Going abstract in 2013 is hardly the dramatic move it would have been 40 years ago, but Mr. Martinez, with his restless, freewheeling, gallant mark-making, makes it look significant.