In his first solo show at Anton Kern, Chris Martin presents a bright, shining cosmos that signals a shift from the more visually subdued, densely painted work presented in his final show at Mitchell-Innes and Nash. Many of Martin’s new pieces feature loopy landscape imagery laced with glitter, while lacking the object-image play present in his last show. (Remember the nap nooks and cut-through canvases?)
If Martin’s new paintings are less idiosyncratic than the previous set, his touch is also lighter and has a fanciful, infectious glee. Back in March, Martin had a beer with Hyperallergic’s Jennifer Samet and talked about how he pursued different paths at one time. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:
“For a long time I used to paint odd, eccentric things, but I destroyed them or didn�t show them. Gradually I allowed myself to paint paintings that didn�t all look like one another, to mix photographic images with invented abstract images, to use materials that weren�t necessarily �art materials.�
“There are artists who do great when they have a narrow, circumscribed practice. I don�t go to a Morandi show and think, ‘It�s too bad the guy didn�t branch out or paint more women.’ You can see that was his natural path. But I am someone whose models are artists like Paul Klee or Polke. I do better when I allow myself to pursue different directions at the same time.
“Initially, it was only in my drawings that I let myself explore different things. I have a huge amount of work on paper. On paper you are not so worried if it�s good enough. Friends would say my drawings were ahead of my paintings. I came to see that they had more action and energy. I gradually let myself treat paintings the way I treated drawings. One way to do that was to start a lot more paintings.
Chris Martin, Dream Buffalo (for Frank Moore), 2014, acrylic, glitter and collage on canvas, 88 1/4 x 77 1/4 inches.
Chris Martin, Space is the Place, 2014, acrylic and glitter on canvas, 135 x 118 inches. (I ran into Martin at the show and he told me he buys the glitter in industrial-sized canisters.)
Chris Martin, Chameleon, 2014, oil acrylic and collage on canvas, 88 x 77 inches.
Chris Martin, installation at Anton Kern.
Note that Martin incorporates many of his old practices. For this new body of work, he has continued to embed magazine clips and photos in the surface, creating enigmatic puncta that reward closer viewing from both a formal and a conceptual standpoint. Ultimately, though, Martin’s work is about improvising, about getting things cooking in the studio. Try this, then add that, keep going. He seems to stop a bit earlier than usual in these paintings; the restraint makes them less strange and more conventionally lovable.
“Chris Martin,” Anton Kern, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through November 15, 2014. I’m looking forward to reading the new monograph, published by Karma, that includes a conversation with the artist and Bob Nicklas.
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