Eddie Martinez submits to the wishes of his paintings | ET REALITY


In the dense, polychrome paintings of artist Eddie Martínez, each mark is haunted by the gesture that made it and each color seems to demand its own verb: The thick gray drips; declares a bright red stripe; a blue spot wavers. Even the white pigment, which has frequently appeared in Martínez’s pieces since his 2018 “White Out” series, has a charged, bold presence counter a base paint or a thin layer on the canvas to let the ghost of an underlying color peek through. His works full They appear, on the one hand, to be composed with urgency, but the carefully applied layers of paint (sprayed, screen-printed or applied directly with pigment sticks) also point to an artist who knows how to surrender to the rhythm set by his materials. “I need the paint to dry to produce the layers,” Martínez tells me on a cloudy afternoon in his studio in Ridgewood, Queens, before his solo exhibition. at the Timothy Taylor gallery in London, inaugurated on October 12. The walls are covered with pieces in various stages of completion. He stops in front of one and leaves a single, deliberate brown stroke. “I have to get over my impatience to let it become the painting it needs to be,” he says.

It also took time for Martínez, 46, to develop his intuitive way of working. During his itinerant adolescence, which included stays in Massachusetts, Florida, and California, his drawing allowed him to create his own stable world. After high school, she spent a year at the Boston Art Institute and then a few months at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design before finding the programs too stifling and dropping out. Martínez began working as an art handler, first in Boston and then in New York, where he also occasionally curated exhibitions after moving to the city in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, he continued to develop his artistic practice, which for then it had expanded to include painting.

Although the figurative forms of his early drawings eventually became abstractions, discernible objects still recur in his pieces. As Martínez explains, his outlines of bouquets, mandalas and tables act as “a defined space, a stage for things to happen.” The shape of a butterfly’s head, thorax and wings can be seen throughout her “Bufly” series, which began in 2021 and is named after her little one’s mispronunciation of the word. The six new sprawling Bufly paintings that Martinez shows me, made for an exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum next year, seem as ironically inventive as the series’ title. For Martínez, even recognizable motifs can become opportunities to release meaning rather than lock it away.

Near the studio entrance, dozens of remnants of canvases lie piled on the floor, fragments that the artist has excised and preserved from failed works over the years. Sometimes he reuses the clippings by gluing them into new paintings or pinning them near a work in progress to help him when he’s stuck. Together they form a living, tactile archive, a way to interact with the textures of his creative story without forcing them into narrative coherence. In 2013, this instinct to collect odds and ends led Martínez to make sculptures, at first assembling them from household objects and beach trash. He soon decided to cast the pieces in bronze, often painting over the metal surfaces. “It’s a compilation,” he says of his work, “a constant, diaristic thing.”

However, drawing remains the foundation of Martínez’s practice, deeply rooted in his daily routines. When I talk to him for T’s Artist Questionnaire, as he settles into a homely, upholstered couch in his industrial studio, it’s fitting that he holds a piece of paper in one hand and a black Sharpie in the other.

How is your day? How much sleep do you get and what are your work hours?

The day varies. It all starts with taking my son Arthur to school. Sometimes I play tennis, sometimes I go to the studio, but I don’t have a very tight schedule. It’s usually a mix of work, family and play.

What is the first work of art you made?

In high school, I did this funny painting of a hand reaching out and accessing a button that could implode the earth, and it was inside a television screen. It was terrible but I loved that.

What is the worst study you have ever had?

There was a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Nervous, many rats, disgusting. But it’s a good place to hide and work.

What is the first work you sold? How much?

I think it was a painting on paper. I say a painting on paper because at the time it was probably more practical than a canvas, in terms of cost and shipping. Or it could have been on a panel, some kind of heavy board. I sold that work in Sweden in 2005. I’m not sure if it was the first, but it’s the first one I remember, and it cost $600.

When you start a new piece, where do you start?

It all starts with drawing, and drawing doesn’t really happen in the studio; It happens in my usual life while I’m at home or traveling. Then the work comes to the studio and I often walk around carrying my drawings or just throw them on the floor. I will take fragments of different things and make new compositions. Or if there’s something I’ve already drawn that I like, I’ll pin it up, extract moments from it, and start painting.

Is that process (making those drawings in the context of your usual life and then taking them to the studio) linked to the daily, almost documentary aspect of drawing that you mentioned before?

It sounds like that, now that you say it. All my drawings start with a line drawing. I don’t use a screen print all the time, but it’s a tool I began employing in 2015, with a continued interest in trying to make a large painting look like a small, intimate drawing, specifically one made with a Sharpie marker. the couch. My wife, Sam (Moyer), and I got this fun stationery from our realtor that had our names on it, and I would make the drawings on it and then blow it up and screen print it. They were called “Love Letters.” (Laughter.) Anyway, it’s a tool I still use. Nothing is exclusive: I paint in different modes at different times.

How do you know when you’re done?

Intuition. How the piece feels, how it looks. You might even get the feeling that maybe it could be… or ought be, a different painting, but I accept it as the painting that it is, and really as for the painting that it is. Sometimes I do little rituals to help me determine if something has been done. I will close my eyes and walk, I will turn, I will simply look at the thing, I will change orientations. I also take photos every day when I leave the studio, and at night I take the paintings I’m working on and make corrections on my phone or my iPad with the drawing app.

How many assistants do you have?

I have a studio manager, a full-time studio assistant, and a part-time guy who does recorder work, imaging, and stuff like that.

What music do you play when you make art?

I don’t hear anything, just silence through my headphones, or binaural beats, brown noise, pink noise. And a lot of rap, 90s rap and stuff like that. And then basic stuff like the Grateful Dead. Music has to be an intentional choice, at this moment in my life and my practice. Generally, I listen to a song over and over again. What I hear has a purpose: it solves a problem that I think I need to solve at that moment. It evokes the feeling I’m looking for, whether it’s through Wu-Tang Clan or Willie Nelson.

When did you first feel comfortable saying that you are a professional artist?

Probably 2008. I got a big studio and it had been a few years since I had to do art.

Are there any foods you repeat when you’re working?

I like Fresh Direct’s turkey meatballs. And I like sushi.

Are you watching any shows right now?

“Reservation Dogs” is one of my favorites right now. It’s so sweet that it’s binge-watching that way.

What is the strangest object in your studio?

Probably that rubber thing you use to exercise your elbow. (Pulls out a turquoise Theraband FlexBar.) It’s mainly for tennis elbow, but that problem is exacerbated by paint.

How often do you talk to other artists?

Well, I’m married to one! We talk daily. Does “speaking” today include text? Other than with my wife, I guess a couple of times a week. It’s not necessarily about what happens in the studio, unless you’re in each other’s studio. Just general work stuff.

What do you do when you are procrastinating?

Same as everyone else: seeing things on my phone.

What do you usually wear when you work?

You’re looking at it: sports shorts, cropped Crocs. They are modified. These are not the supportive shoes, they are the extra lazy shoes. These (He points to a pair of Hoka sneakers.) are the support shoes. They are a limited collaboration with Engineered Garments, so I buy them on the secondary market.

What do your windows look at?

Trees! I love those little trees. It’s amazing. It’s like being in the suburbs.

What do you buy in bulk most often?

Baby wipes. They remove the oil paint from your skin, they really help remove it.

What is your worst habit?

There are so many. Guess if I’m honest: binge eating. (He holds a Diet Dr Pepper.) And probably this.

What embarrasses you?

I would say… myself. Not all the time, and not completely, but that’s probably what embarrasses me. seeing myself.

Do exercise?

I play tennis with some other artists. And I have periods where I do Pilates, which is very important for your back, especially when you’re an artist working on large-scale things.

What are you reading?

Don Winslow: “The Dawn Patrol” (2008) and “The Road to the Buddha Mirror” (1992).

What is your favorite piece of art from someone else?

I love all the little bowls Arthur made. Some paintings by abstract expressionists like Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan have left me speechless. And on Naoshima Art Island (in Japan) there is a room that is like a man-made cave, and in it there is a Monet, under natural light. It’s from a very late stage of his career and is very open, with a lot of raw canvas at the bottom. It’s a very contemporary movement and it’s surprising that someone did it so long ago.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

I lost a very dear friend last Friday.

When something like this happens, do you stop working or does work help you process it?

I’ve never really been in a time like this. So far I’m fine. I am painting.

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