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Eddie Martinez: Street Energy and American Abstraction

Eddie Martinez
Eddie Martinez in the studio

By Shira Wolfe

“It’s sort of like a boxing ring in here. It’s a very physical process. Maybe I’m a little addicted to that. It’s a real part of my life. It’s a real way for me to work things out outside of just the actual painting.”

Eddie Martinez

Brooklyn-based artist Eddie Martinez has built a body of work over the last decade which merges the tradition of American abstract painting with the buzzing energy of the street. Until 30 March, Artland Collector Auction No. 2 offers a unique opportunity to acquire some of Eddie Martinez’s works during an exclusively online auction, featuring quality artists and selected modern and contemporary artworks from international private art collectors of the Artland community.


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Eddie Martinez, Untitled, 2011. Available at Artland Collector Auction No. 2.
Eddie Martinez, Untitled, 2011. Available at Artland Collector Auction No. 2.

Eddie Martinez’s Influences and Iconography

Born in 1977 in Groton, Connecticut, Eddie Martinez lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, where he creates intense large-scale paintings that fit like a glove in New York City. Influences range from street art to action painting, CoBrA and neo-expressionism. Martinez was interested in painting from an early age, but never completed a formal art education. He is largely self-taught and his subject matter reflects the urban culture and iconography of his surroundings.

Over the years, he has become recognised for his bold lines and handling of colour, dancing between semi-abstraction and distinct figurative elements with a personal visual language. Combining oil, enamel, acrylic, spray paint, marker, pencil and collage, Martinez creates great textural and colour contrasts with urgent brushstrokes, graphic shapes and forms. His works are filled with aggression and energy, all channelled into the artworks by Martinez, who describes the process of making art as follows: “It’s sort of like a boxing ring in here. It’s a very physical process. Maybe I’m a little addicted to that. It’s a real part of my life. It’s a real way for me to work things out outside of just the actual painting.”

Eddie Martinez
Eddie Martinez, Untitled, 2019. © Eddie Martinez, courtesy Mitchell-Ines & Nash

Martinez relates to the way Picasso produced an incredible amount of work across various mediums, as well as how he exhausted the same sort of compositions and imagery because he felt they were always variable. Similarly, Martinez often returns to the same images, exploring them again in new periods and contexts. Like the same personal issues and characteristics that keep resurfacing at different points in a human life, several images from Martinez’s personal iconography keep recurring in his paintings over the years. For example, there are his Blockheads, which he started drawing and painting in 2005 and which still appear in his art today. He describes these as a direct response to his obsession with Philip Guston, and also as a result of his visualisation of a face merging into a Picasso skull, disappearing into a Humpty Dumpty brick wall.

“I’ve learned a massive amount from graffiti that I’ve taken into the studio. In terms of scale and how to make large marks, how to take a small drawing and make it large.”

Eddie Martinez
Eddie Martinez
Eddie Martinez, 19 Yuz, 2019. © Eddie Martinez, courtesy Perrotin

Silkscreen Blowups

Martinez is perhaps best known for his large-scale paintings combining spray paint and silkscreens of blown-up drawings. “I learned a massive amount from graffiti that I’ve taken into the studio, in terms of scale and how to make large marks, how to take a small drawing and make it large,” he explains. He is most comfortable working on large-scale pieces, with lots of speed and motion. When doing smaller works, he has more trouble with the mark-making and feels there is too much to consider and the work is too slow.
In 2019, Martinez installed a massive 20-meter painting at Yuz Museum in Shanghai. The epic work, which covered most of a gallery wall, was a test in confidence and technique for Martinez, filled with his energy and intensity.

In a recent body of work, created for the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Martinez introduced a new element to his process: erasure. He started whiting out parts of his compositions, regarding the act of removing painted elements as an integral part of the process of constructing a painting. Inspired by the shapes and compositions formed on walls that have been painted over, Martinez keeps searching for those points of resistance in his work to guide him forward.

Eddie Martinez
Eddie Martinez, Sand Lines, 2018. © Eddie Martinez, courtesy The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Exhibitions

Martinez has exhibited internationally, including solo museum shows at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Drawing Center, Yuz Museum Shanghai and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and group exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery in London and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. His work belongs to public institutions including the Bronx Museum, Morgan Library & Museum, Marciano Collection, Saatchi Collection, and Colección Jumex. He is represented by Perrotin Gallery, Timothy Taylor, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

His works are currently available at Artland Collector Auction No. 2.

Relevant sources to learn more

Perrotin
Timothy Taylor
Mitchell-Ines & Nash
The Bronx Museum of the Arts
Artland Collector Auction No. 2


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