Enrique Martínez Celaya

Selected Work


The Tears of Things
Opening Reception September 13, 2019 6 -8pm

Kohn Gallery is pleased to announce The Tears of Things, an exhibition of new work by Los Angeles-based artist Enrique Martínez Celaya opening September 13, 2019. It is the first exhibition of Martínez Celaya’s work at the gallery, and simultaneously marks his first exhibition in Los Angeles in four years and his first in the U.S. in two years, following recent projects in London, Havana, Stockholm, and Berlin. The Tears of Things features new major large-scale work, encompassing all three exhibition spaces at Kohn Gallery. In addition, on October 16, the artist will be in conversation with Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Chairman of the Hispanic Society of America’s Board of Trustees.

This new body of work consists of a series of paintings and one sculpture that revolve around three dualities: our alienation from and interconnectedness with all that there is, the absurdity and redeeming possibility of embarking, and the tension between promise and risk. The imagery brings together skaters, ice-covered lakes, black apple trees, golden landscapes, bullfighting, moonlit butterflies, and whale bones. The work featured in The Tears of Things continues Martínez Celaya’s concern with displacement and exile in its psychological sense, while deepening his ongoing exploration of the limitations and possibilities of art’s capacity to reveal or create meaning.

Martínez Celaya is widely celebrated for a practice that arises from sustained engagement with literature, poetry, philosophy, and science, as well as his own writing practice. An artist, author and former physicist, he works in a variety of mediums and materials that include oil, wax, tar, mirrors, dirt, steel, silk and bronze, which he weaves together with physical, emotional and conceptual qualities into a multi-layered exploration of the human condition evoking both immediacy and timelessness. His practice is laden with a depth of textures and philosophical touchstones, often incorporating elements of mysticism and fairy tales, yet he creates works that resist narrative interpretations. His paintings, sculptures, photographs and environments address universal questions about life and the individual experience, loss, memory, failure and one’s place in an emotionally radiant yet chaotic world.

In January, three major works by Martínez Celaya were installed at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, marking the first time in the institution’s history that work by an artist was installed both inside the Huntington Art Gallery and outside in the botanical gardens. The Huntington also named Martínez Celaya the first recipient of a Visual Arts Fellowship. Martínez Celaya was recently invited to create a public, monumental sculpture in Cuba’s historic Malecón as part of the 13th Havana Biennial, which led to a new documentary highlighting the project and the artist’s return to Cuba after 47 years.

A selection of his upcoming projects include, a commission to create the first solo exhibition for the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, after its renovation; a joint exhibition with Käthe Kollwitz at Galerie Judin in Berlin; and individual exhibitions at the Fisher Museum of Art, University of Southern California, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Williams College Museum of Art.

Selected Press

Curriculum Vitae

1964, Cuba
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA

2017-19 Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts, USC
2016-17 Roth Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Dartmouth College
2014-19 Montgomery Fellow, Dartmouth College
2007-10 Visiting Presidential Professor, University of Nebraska
1994-2003 Associate Professor, Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University
1994 MFA, University of California, Santa Barbara
1994 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
1988 MS, University of California, Berkeley
1986 BS, Cornell University

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