Perrotin Shanghai is delighted to present Eddie Martinez’s solo exhibition Fingers Pointing at the Moon opening November 5, 2021, marking the artist’s first gallery exhibition in Mainland China and his third with the gallery.
Following Open Feast - Martinez’s 2019 exhibition at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai - this presentation showcases an extensive collection of new canvas works, cardboard paintings, recent drawings and tabletop sculptures.
Eddie Martinez’s works are delightful to the visually versed. Rooted in the painting tradition, informed by art historical precedents, and expressed with a contemporary sensibility, Martinez has focused on rudimentary subjects in painting, namely, portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, since launching his artistic career in 2005. Over the years, while the artist continues to work on these subjects, his cartoon-like figuration gained speed in execution, his subjects transformed with gestural marks, and his painted surface grew more tactile and audacious in color. Such an evolution may, in part, be indebted to his diaristic drawing habit that shapes his compositional intelligence and partly being a keen observer of an ever-changing world around him.
The following conversation between Eddie Martinez and art critic, writer, and curator Fiona He, shines a light on the artist's recent body of work presented at Perrotin, Shanghai.
FH: Let’s start with the title of this exhibition, Fingers Pointing at the Moon. Presumably, this refers to the Buddhist teaching "Like a finger pointing to the moon." If I remember correctly, this phrase appeared in a 1973 film Enter the Dragon, starring the martial art master Bruce Lee, who demanded his disciple for "emotional content" over "an exhibition of techniques.” What are the "fingers," and what is the moon for you in this body of works?
EM: Excellent reference! Not as specific as that, but not unrelated. More looking at life and the subject matter that makes it into my drawings. To surmise, I think Jeffrey Lebowski illustrated this perfectly, "I could just be sitting here with pee stains on my rug." In other words, stop running to something, embrace what is already here/there and be grateful for that.
FH: If we look at your practice as a whole, whether on canvas, on paper, on cardboard, or on sculptures, some compositions seem to be recurring, yet each piece is unique. Is there a reason that you recycle your compositions?
EM: True. There’s likely more than one way to answer this. But I think it’s about memory, repetition, variations, similarities, polarities, clarity, and the potential that keeps me interested. Once something has become objectified, I use it like cut and paste to express moods.
FH: What are the reasons to resituate these supercharged everyday subjects in seemingly even more commonplace scenarios?
EM: Interesting. No reason other than it's how I've worked for so long that whatever reason may have been, then I have now washed away.
FH: There are many small-size works on cardboard in this exhibition. In comparison to your drawings, they show a different degree of "completeness.” Meanwhile, it seems a lot of things are happening in them. When did you start painting on cardboard, and how conjuring this amount of content on such limited space is a different experience from working in the other mediums and dimensions?
EM: 2017. While I was making large-scale mandala paintings, I was simultaneously working on small cardboard versions. I kept it up, then came Covid and many daily deliveries and an overwhelming amount of cardboard….I don't know what difference it is. It either works, or it doesn't.
FH: I've noticed in the work descriptions that you've made many of the frames using strip wood. Why make the frames yourself?
EM: Because then it becomes an “artist frame.” Part of the painting not just a trick to make it look more important.
FH: Some unconventional items appear on the canvas, such as baby wipes and pieces of cut-out canvas from presumably "failed" pictures. How do you decide on what fits a particular work? Moreover, since your painted marks and drawings exhibit fast execution, does your thought process match the gestural executions?
EM: Impulsivity but also intentionality, particularly with past painting pieces. Those will generally fit into the composition. The other stuff is just trash. So much trash involved to make art. It’s a problem. At least glue some of it down. Back into painting earth.
Born in 1977 on Groton Naval Base, Groton, Connecticut, USA.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Eddie Martinez is a self-taught artist who is well known for his vibrant colours, dynamic brushstrokes, and impeccable intuition. Alternating spontaneously between traditional and unconventional modes of painting, energy exudes from the brisk markings he makes with acrylic, oil, spray paint, Sharpies, and even baby wipes.
Martinez’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at museums and institutions including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, the Drawing Center, New York, Yuz Museum, Shanghai, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Michigan, and the Davis Museum, Wellesley, Massachusetts. His works are included in public collections such as the Saatchi Collection and Hiscox Collection, London; Colección Jumex, Mexico City; the Marciano Collection, Los Angeles; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, Morgan Library & Museum, New York; and the Davis Museum, Wellesley.
All artwork images: JSP Studio, Mengqi Bao and Hong Zhang.
© Eddie Martinez. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.