When I first I saw Eddie Martinez's work in New York Minute, it totally lifted my mood. The characters in his paintings (ghosts, birds, human clocks) seem to have escaped from a tale revisited by Henri Matisse or some colorful master of the last century. I wondered what kind of personality if would take to put together such work, so Jeremy and I made our way to Brooklyn to visit his studio.
Alexandre Stipanovich: How did you end up in the New York Minute exhibition?
Eddie Martinez: I've been here for about eight years, and I met Kathy [Grayson] in 2006. She started putting me in shows and it was awesome. It's been a continuing relationship.
AS: What family of artists do you feel like you belong to?
EM: When I used to be out in Bushwick, it was easier because there are a lot of close friends out there. But I'm over here now. I still see people, but things change—I got married so I don't really hang out that much anymore. I think that's what other people do—what curators or critics do. They put you in groups like that. Putting yourself in a group though, feels unnecessary.
AS: I think I'd describe your paintings as very joyful, surprising, innocent, and playful. They remind me of the work of French painters from the early 20s, like Matisse or Picasso.
EM: Yeah, they have a huge influence on me. I quit art school, so as far as art history is concerned, I'm largely self-educated. I just look at art books, so I think by the time that I was able to really employ influences in my work, there was no one telling me that it's weird to look at Matisse. I definitely immersed myself in Matisse, Picasso, de Chirico, Dubuffet and all these people that others may think it wasn't cool to look up to at that time.
AS: It seems like you're really trying to stay connected to these old painters.
EM: Yeah. I'm heavily influenced by the abstract expressionist guys, as well painters like Roberto Matta and Wilfredo Lam. I definitely feel more connected to that stuff.
AS: You also seem to bring something else to your work––this nonchalant, comic touch that makes it more accessible. It's very vivid, and there's a lot of curiosity.
EM: Definitely curiosity. I'm just trying figure out how to navigate daily life in my paintings—that's what it's about for me. I like to make things that excite me.
AS: I did a studio visit with Wes [Lang] and he has a piece of yours in his space. You seem to have a good relationship.
EM: Yeah, we look at a lot of the same stuff and have similar influences. We used to have studios together in Greenpoint, but he's in Bushwick and since I've moved, the studio visits with each other are less frequent, but the dialogue is always there. I've become super neighborhood-lazy. But there's definitely something that will always still be there.
AS: How do you come up with a show, do you just accumulate paintings or do you come up with an idea first?
EM: It's a combination. I'll just be working and I'll start to see how things go together. Then if I start to see a connection, I'll work off of that. But it's not so much that I sit down with an idea in mind. I did that once in 2010 at a show in Brussels—you know that painter Bernard Buffet? He's someone that's totally highly regarded, but I decided to do a painting show based on his work. So that was a very put-together thing.
But I'm very happy with this show that I just sent off to Berlin, though. I think it's the best show that I've done. It's just nine paintings—they're all titled, and it's a nice little package. I worked out different things in the paintings that probably only I can see, but they all still work together. I feel if you're consciously trying to figure things out and experiment within one show, it might end up looking like a group show. Here, it's definitely clear that they're all my paintings.
AS: And you don't use language too much in your paintings.
EM: No, just for the titles and signature. In the drawings I use some writing, but not in the paintings. I don't think that would work. Maybe it could sometimes, but it doesn't usually feel important.
AS: What about your sculptures? They're quite different from your other work.
EM: Yeah, I only made a few. I don't really like them. One's okay.
AS: So when is your next show?
EM: My next show's at Peres Projects, starting November 11th.
AS: And your dog helps you with your drawings sometimes?
EM: No, she walked over some charcoal drawings one time. I also think they were drawings I made of her, and she walked over them. So that was funny.
AS: (Laughs) Very cute. Well I look forward to seeing more of your paintings.
EM: Thanks, man.
Photos by Jeremy Liebman.
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