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Eddie Martinez at Space K Gallery

‘Space K Seoul’ presents a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Eddie Martinez (b.1977) from March 14, 2024 to June 16, 2024. The artist explores painting using everything that interests him, from the works of great masters to pop culture, as well as his daily life, as a medium and material for his work. The exhibition, titled To Be Continued, sheds light on the artist’s oeuvre, which effortlessly fuses figuration and abstraction, from 2005 to the present, arranged both chronologically and thematically.

Born in Connecticut, Eddie Martinez is currently based in New York and works internationally. He has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2019) and The Bronx Museum (2018), and participated in group exhibitions at Yuz Museum Shanghai (2023) and Kunstmuseum Bonn (2015). His works are in the collections at The Bronx Museum and The Saatchi Collection. In addition, Eddie Martinez has been selected to represent the Republic of San Marino at the 2024 Venice Biennale. 

Eddie Martinez’s works are characterized by swift lines and bold colors. The canvases feature a variety of motifs that have recurred over the years such as butterflies, flowerpots, tennis balls, and blockheads, all which were inspired by the artist’s everyday life. His method of working, which he calls it a “study of making the same painting, but differently” is an attempt to strip away preconceived notions of the subject in order to understand the image differently. The artist also collages found objects from everyday life including trash, baby wipes, chewing gum, and scraps of canvas fabric from his work to create unique textures. The artist states that the driving force behind his recent work is his desire to return to his true nature. In today’s digital age where we come across countless processed images and believe them to be real, the artist is interested in everyday objects and emphasizes the importance of visual experiences that happen around us.

Drawing is at the center of Eddie Martinez’s work. Always carrying a pen and paper with him, he draws and then transforms the images into new ones by overlapping, blurring, and exaggerating them. In 2015, Martinez attempted a new method of working using silkscreen, which is a printmaking technique, in order to capture the fleeting nature of his drawings and apply them to large-scale paintings. He enlarges his drawings, silkscreens them onto canvas, and then paints on top of it. He would use the black outline of the silkscreen as a formal blueprint or he would ignore the lines, paint them over and build up layers of paint. The work on view in this exhibition, Emartllc No. 4 (Sound Bath II), 2023, is an enlargement of a drawing he made on his studio letterhead, with layers piled on all except the text at the bottom of the work, obscuring most traces of the original drawing. Through this method of working, Eddie Martinez combines classical forms of painting like still life, portrait, and landscape with the speed in drawing, which he approaches in a form of stream-of-consciousness, to develop his unique artistic style.

The ‘Mandala’ series is characterized by Eddie Martinez’s tendency to reference and reinvent the old. The series began when his assistant discovered a drawing he had made in 2005. A mandala, which means disk or circle, is a Buddhist and Hindu representation of cosmic truths. The artist uses the mandala as a container for his artistic universe of lines, shapes, forms, and colors, as well as his recurring motifs. The intense colors, textures, and traces of spray paint are adaptations of Hindu and Buddhist mandalas and are characterized by the constant motion of a cartwheel.

Since 2005, Eddie Martinez has consistently featured ‘blockhead,’ a brick-patterned head, in his work. In the ‘Blockhead Stack’ series, where he stacks blockheads on a colored background, he fills the entire canvas with blockheads compartmentalized in a grid pattern, transforming them from simple figures to representations of different spaces. Untitled (Double-stack, green background), 2018 is an early work from the ‘Blockhead Stack’ series, where vibrant colors can be observed behind the brick-patterned outlines.

Eddie Martinez works with the compositional principle of 'imitating the day-to-day experience'. Butterflies, flowerpots, and tennis balls, which were inspired by everyday experiences, have reappeared many times over the years and the butterfly-shaped ‘Bufly’ series has been presented since 2021. It was inspired by the artist's son, who loves butterflies and his mispronunciation of the word 'butterfly' as 'bufly' gave the series its title.

The ‘Flowerpot’ series, with its abstract, geometric depictions of flowers and pots, started with the artist's memories of the places he grew up in, such as Florida and California, and the plants that grew there. The ‘Flowerpot’ series expands into more abstract forms as the artist covers the richly colored flowers and pots with white paint and deconstructs the shapes of flowers and pots.

The large-scale painting Super Galactic Loggia Whiteout, 2023, on view in the exhibition To Be Continued, is part of Eddie Martinez's ‘Whiteout’ series that he has been working on since 2015. The artist intentionally "erases" the painting by covering the colorful drawing with white paint as if a snowstorm was about to hit. Super Galactic Loggia Whiteout, 2023 is a visual cacophony of familiar forms such as leaves, mushrooms, flowers, and eyes, and the white paint that covers the painting acts as a veil, softening the vivid image. The work captures the viewer's attention as it adds and subtracts, defines and erases. Eddie Martinez continues his exploration of revealing through erasure by applying the techniques used in the ‘Whiteout’ series to other forms of artwork.

To Be Continued brings together works from Eddie Martinez's entire oeuvre, including ‘The Deal’ series, where his iconic motifs like playing cards, tennis balls, and blockheads reappear, his characteristic large-scale paintings, and drawings that are the foundation of his work. The exhibition title, To Be Continued, is a metaphor for the artist's practice of "constant drawing" and it encapsulates Eddie Martinez’s artistic world which oscillates between figuration and abstraction. The exhibition captures the artist's ongoing perspective on painting through the familiar figures that gradually reveal themselves, which may be difficult to interpret at first glance.

‘Space K’ is Kolon group’s art and culture sharing space that was first launched in Gwacheon in 2011. Expanded and reopened in Magok-dong, Gangseo-gu, in September 2020, ‘Space K Seoul’ has been providing exhibition opportunities for emerging Korean artists and mid-career artists who deserve to be reappraised as part of Kolon’s unique art and social contribution program. Furthermore, ‘Space K Seoul’ strives to expand the base of contemporary art by holding exhibitions for foreign artists who are lesser-known in Korea and continuously supporting artists, allowing them to focus on their practice.