“Although abstract, Martin’s paintings are a direct response to the physical world around him. Many of his works integrate objects from his immediate environment into their surfaces, including kitchen utensils, records, photographs, and Persian carpets. The works are as much about daily life—music, travel, and language—as they are about mythology, storytelling, the endurance of symbols, and the role of painting in art history.
“Martin’s interest in bringing painting into the realm of lived experience and his own history of performance are essential elements of his work. In the 1970s and 1980s, he created collaborative paintings during Happenings with other artists and musicians. He has placed works in bus stops, on the sides of buildings, and in nightclubs, fabricating them with phosphorescent paint to respond to the lighting and conditions of the location. He has taken large-scale paintings for ‘walks’ around the block, involving his neighbors and local shopkeepers in creating the meaning and experience of his work. In more traditional gallery spaces, Martin has blurred the distinction between the art object and the viewer, placing paintings on floors, ceilings, and displayed among household objects.” (excerpt from the press package, which also included a set of children’s watercolors that I’ll be breaking open in the studio later today. #schwag)
“I grew up in a great old house in Washington DC that actually was filled with paintings and old family portraits. I particularly loved this life sized Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait my mother had inherited with an elaborate carved wooden frame. And my grandmother was a gifted landscape painter. My most vivid memory as a kid happened at Beauvoir School. We made a giant mural of dinosaurs in the refectory. Every year the third graders would repaint this wall and we did dinosaurs. I was thrilled.”
“These forms come from a long process of unconscious drawing. Then there is this desire to see it in paint—a kind of compulsive curiosity that drives me to choose colors, mix up buckets of paint, and prepare a surface. The actual performing of a painting involves giving oneself over to a series of actions and trusting in the body and what the body knows. And when I step back to look at this thing, I’m still trying to figure it out just like everybody else…. It’s funny – recently I’ve been asked to teach. When I show up the students think here comes the teacher—he knows what he’s doing. The students imagine that some day they’ll grow up to be like the teacher and then they will know what they’re doing. But I don’t know what I’m doing. And I try to communicate that to my students.
“Chris Martin: Painting Big,” Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Through Oct. 23, 2011.