Eddie Martinez: Hard-earned cool

Eddie Martinez, Love Letter #13, 2017; silkscreen ink, oil, spray paint and enamel on canvas; 96 x 75 inches

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / An Eddie Martinez painting exudes casual and effervescent esprit, from the comic-book energy of jangled shape and line, to the optic colors applied with a smart brand of aggressive sloppiness, right down to the often occluded header and footer on the canvas identifying it as his. The printed information says, insouciantly, “Yeah, it’s mine and I like it, but so what; do you?” To that question most are likely to answer hell yes. In conjunction with a show in Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s uptown space, his work is on view through February 24 at their Chelsea location in an exhibition called “Love Letters” – an archly charged title suggesting that there’s more underlying the paintings than the louche joie de vivre that meets the eye.

Eddie Martinez, installation view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

In fact – though a viewer might think Martinez’s hand is impelled by nothing more than beer, cigarettes, a head full of imagery, a fine alternative vibe, and maybe a little something else – his process is calculating, purposeful, and fairly complicated. He makes Sharpie pen drawings daily on a small notepad (imprinted with his and his partner Sam Moyer’s names and address), enlarges the images(including the names and address), screen prints them on canvases, and finally nails down their color and tactility using oil, acrylic, spray, and enamel paints. What looks effortlessly cool turns out to be a product of considerable artistic deliberation – and, by implication, passion.

Eddie Martinez, Love Letter #17, 2017; silkscreen ink, acrylic ink, oil, enamel, graphite, collaged canvas and thumbtack on canvas; 96 x 75 inches
Eddie Martinez, Love Letter #11, 2017; silkscreen ink, oil, spray paint, enamel and paper on canvas; 96 x 75 inches

The imagery itself breaks down figuratively but adds up abstractly. Identifiable forms include a head, a bent leg, a cartoon duck, a phallus, a telephone receiver (or is it a quote mark?), plants and flowers, a broom, a talk balloon, a mushroom, and a boxing glove (?). They are arrayed in a loosely associative fashion, yielding a subjective version of reality that could seem playful or discomfiting – both, if you are, say, William Burroughs. Overall, what you get are eccentric, wise-ass outbursts in a stealthily sophisticated aesthetic infrastructure. This combination lends Martinez’s enterprise a paradoxically leveling gravitas, à la Basquiat: he may start with some popular culture references and notepad doodles, but he ends up in the gallery. Deservedly so.

Eddie Martinez: Love Letters,” Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through February 24, 2018. Also on view: “Eddie Martinez: Yard Work,” Mitchell-Innes & Nash on Madison Avenue.

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Paintings made on the assembly line featured at Klaus Von Nichtssagend
Cheat sheet: Summer group shows (and what curators are writing about them)

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