In his recent paintings, Martinez expands an ever-widening visual vocabulary. Thoughts this cacophonous and grandiloquent do not translate to mere language; they are the stuff of dreams. Here, exclamations of color are object enough. Still lifes explode with vibrant flora; a tugboat is distilled to its most elemental, abstract parts; imperious tabletop constructions serve as psychologically charged landscapes or transform into a thought bubble’s torrential rant; and, finally, where the figure emerges, ducks and skulls shed a knowing tear, while bright eyed, helmeted child warriors stand guard. All boldly conceived in thick, juicy clots of pigment — these hieroglyphs and barely delineated figuration teeter on the edge of decipherability.
One of three six by nine foot canvases features four figures holding court at a glimmering green table strewn with shapes and colors, makeshift fragments created with Martinez’s signature urgency. An empty chair to the left of the scene invites the viewer to join in and let the gamesmanship begin. In direct challenge to the bright detritus of the aforementioned works are two sets featuring new modes of working: all white tableaux whose gestures come straight from the tube and black canvases incised to reveal previous layers of subtle coloration, reductive scratchiti of primal immediacy.
Accompanying the suite of paintings are works on paper, small pieces that are crucial to Martinez’s practice, and a suite of hand-colored etchings produced in a collaboration with Forth Estate. Martinez’s work was recently seen in “New York Minute” at MACRO, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome and has been included in shows at Blum & Poe, Deitch Projects, Peres Projects, Alexander & Bonin, and the Deste Foundation, among many others. He was named one of 2009’s top fifteen young artists by Interview Magazine. This is his third solo exhibition at ZieherSmith.