Eddie Martinez - The New York Optimist

“Chelsea Art Crawl” by Stephan Fowlkes

This euphoria and delight started immediately at ZieherSmith with Eddie Martinez’s large canvases. In a very coherent, fluid and smooth, if not frantic and immediate style, Martinez paints figures and situations with the freedom of a child’s imagination. Floating somewhere in the current of past greats such as Basquiat and Guston, Martinez has a particular signature style he has developed which is apparent on his large canvasses, his dry points, carbon transfers, drawings and collage, and this works equally well on both large and small scales. And though one can make reference to the past, this is clearly his own work, disentangled from any past. One of his signature themes seems to be the table top, serving both a subject within a work, but also framing a smaller work within a work. For example, in “The Grass Is Never Greener” (2009), four figures are seated at a poker table of sorts, but the table alone, filled with loose imagery of bottles, dice, cards, chips and such could easily stand as a successful, complete work on its own, filled with a symbolic vocabulary. The four figures in no way detract, but in fact enhance the composition. There is even an empty chair, possibly for the viewer to join in? This is echoed in a couple of his mixed media on paper works where the table top itself in fact becomes the sole subject of the works. The looseness of line and playfulness of style shows clearly the enjoyment Martinez is experiencing in the act of painting and drawing. This show alone reminded me and reinforced my very reasons for having always wanted to become an artist in the first place. Only his two monochromes did I feel were a bit out of place and possibly contrived, but that is probably just my cynical self talking, especially since I am sure he had just as much fin in their creation. It is just that he plays so beautifully with color that it is hard to appreciate the lack thereof in his two “White Caulk Paintings.” I just wish I could put into words the sensory and visual impact this show had on me, free of all intellectual over-thought and art-speak.