A happy surprise to see my painting in Decor Magazine. A lovely article about the talented designer Janet Gust and her beautiful home. Thank you to Janet Gust, April Hardwick, Julie Soefer, Donna Talley and Decor Magazine.
In "Dialectical Praxis" at Fred Giampietro Gallery, two painters explore the fusion of action and thought.
Donald Martiny creates giant brushstrokes that are mounted on the wall with hidden aluminum brackets. Their large scale and pronounced dimensionality emphasize that a brushstroke is actually a record of movement, like a contrail from an airplane.
In encaustic paint on wood panels, Celia Johnson makes abstractions from shapes that are reminiscent of die-cast machine parts. The flat colors, sometimes transparent, more often opaque, are worn down in places, as though through repeated mechanical use. These worn spots reveal the layers below. The wood grain of the panels is left visible in places. Color theory weds with ideas about the physicality of objects and the way they respond to use.
As contemporary life becomes increasingly virtual, Martiny and Johnson assert that our very thoughts derive from our physical interaction with the material world.
Read the entire review by Ashley Norwood Cooper by clicking on the image.
But that freedomto wield a brush in what looks like a more haphazard manner was picked up by the great masters of the next century: Velázquez, Hals, and Rembrandt, who recognized the expressive possibilities of paint freed from the object it describes. The slashing strokes that depict the bodice of the little princess in Las Meninas, or the trailing broken exhalations of some fine sable brush that give her hair its fragile luminosity, have an expressive power divorced from conventions about how to make something appear more “real.” At a distance, this evidence of the painter at work dissolves into a more coherent whole; up close the visible brushstrokes bring us nearer to the artist because they are such clear evidence of a hand following the dictates of the mind and eye. The ability to suggest filmy and evanescent stuff like fabrics and hair in just a few seemingly offhand gestures also looks like a mark of the painter’s confidence, as if he (or more rarely she, in those days) were saying, I can use the barest minimum to make you believe what you see.
Closer to our own times, the brushstroke is allied to all the -isms of the forward march of Modernism. The Post-Impressionism of Cézanne and van Gogh, where gestures and slashes and patches of paint become ever more evident; the Expressionism of the great German artists of the 1920s and ‘30s, whose scarcely disguised rage for the times seems allied with a “coarse” way of representing the world; and American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s, when full-bodied gestural painting became synonymous with a kind of existential angst. (In the mid-‘60s Roy Lichtenstein would parody that posture with cartoony images of the brushstrokes and paint spatters so dear to the New York School.)
Though not yet belonging to an -ism (art history will take care of that), Donald Martiny is drawing as much on the currents of the recent past as the AbEx painters did on Surrealist notions of the unconscious directing their imagery. After a brief stint as a gallery assistant, Martiny worked for many years in advertising, as an art director and later a creative director, in New York and Philadelphia. He continued taking classes and making art in his free time, and he seems always to have been conscious of “advanced” notions about art making, from Donald Judd’s ideas about “specific objects” to Lynda Benglis’s ambitions throughout her career to “get paint off the wall.” And he has surely been aware of the frequent pronouncements that painting is dead, which seem to issue forth every five years or so from some mysterious critical consensus, only to be proved a false alarm as painters continue to paint—or at least work with paint as their preferred medium.
One of the more formative episodes in Martiny’s career of making art and looking at art seems to me his attempt to “deconstruct” a de Kooning. Like many who are learning their craft, the artist made copies early in his career, of old masters like Vermeer and Ingres, and in 1972 of one of de Kooning’s Woman IV in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. What he thought was going to be an easy exercise turned out to be the hardest of all. “It was more like building something,” he has said, “because every gesture in the painting does something different. I realized that the architecture of the brushstrokes was as important to the painting as other elements, like color and drawing.”
Another influential encounter was with Barnett Newman’s astonishingly radical painting from 1950, called The Wild. The work is 1-5/8th inches wide by nearly eight feet tall and represents the “zip” from his larger paintings, such as Vir Heroicus Sublimis, isolated and given a sculptural presence on the wall. Martiny saw the works in 2002 and, realizing that The Wild was every bit as powerful as the bigger canvas, made his own, more painterly and substantial homage to The Wild about a decade later.
From analyzing de Kooning’s brushstrokes to spinning his own riff on the “zip,” it seems an idea had been planted and was maturing, and it becomes an understandable leap from seeing brushstrokes as “architecture” to liberating them from their context altogether. And that’s the direction Martiny has been pursuing since about 2010: big lush exuberant sweeps of pigment that are neither paintings nor sculptures but hover in some space all their own. Which is not to say that they are free of the connotations that Judd so emphatically eschewed in his art. You cannot make a shape or use a color without triggering a response in the brain; the disembodied brushstroke immediately says “art” (not cake decorating or sandwich making); cooler tones provoke a different emotional response from warmer hues. And because Martiny’s paintings are generally scaled to the human body—the height of a viewer, or the breadth of our outstretched arms—they assume a certain animism, aligned with the way a body makes a gesture or the way the artist makes his art. In getting rid of a ground (like a canvas or panel) altogether, as he notes, “the painting reaches out to the viewer and relates to the space around it far more strongly.”
Martiny is very much part of a hallowed tradition of American painting that goes back to Jackson Pollock. His paintings, like Pollock’s, are largely achieved by working on the floor, an approach that was a breakthrough in its day and went on to influence painters like Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis. He starts with a small sketch on paper and then repaints that on to a sheet of plastic. When the paint is dry, if he is satisfied, he traces the form onto a piece of aluminum, and then cuts away the metal, leaving only the irregular shape of the painting. The aluminum backing and painted shape, joined together, then offer another kind of sketch, and he repeats the process on a much larger scale, using as many as 30 or 40 gallons of paint mixed with a polymer medium until it is about the consistency of Vaseline. Sometimes he uses a wide brush or sponges to manipulate the pigment, but more and more of late his hands get into the act too. When he judges the work to be complete, it goes from the plastic to another aluminum backing that can then be affixed to the wall.
For the first couple of years into making the giant brushstroke paintings, Martiny worked with the most basic colors—blue, red, green, yellow, or orange. They still inform his palette, but of late he’s also been experimenting with “off” colors or adding other hues to the mix. “By changing the values or exploring the addition of other colors, it’s become easier to see the architecture of the gesture,” he says. “I like the process to be visible.”
The late Robert Rauschenberg once talked about his desire to act in the gap between art and life. Donald Martiny is one of a generation of artists with very diverse aims—Polly Apfelbaum, Angel Otero, and Jason Otero are others—who are acting in the gap between painting and sculpture. It seems a brave new territory, at the moment more like a current than a movement, but one that seeks to harness the tactile and decorative possibilities of paint while borrowing the actual physical presence unique to sculpture. Its roots are many and broad, looking back to Minimalism and the New York School, but also finding a deeper heritage in the innovations of painters like Titian and Rembrandt, who reveled as much in the language of paint and brush as they did in the emotional impact of their subjects.
Ann Landi is a contributing editor of ARTnews and writes frequent reviews for The Wall Street Journal. She is also the author of the four-volume Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art and the founder/editor of Vasari21.com.
Download the PDF here. With many thanks to Madison Gallery, La Jolla, CA.
Ann Landi: "As many know, I had the great pleasure of doing an artist’s talk on Saturday with Donald Martiny at the luxe and spacious Madison Gallery in La Jolla, CA. His “brushstroke paintings,” which I saw firsthand for the first-time, really are knock-outs. Like this one, “Sak” (2017), 53 by 34 inches. These are extremely labor intensive to make, but once they’re up on the wall, they sweep you along like a great big thundering wave. I’ll write more about Don in a future “Under the Radar,” but if you’re anywhere near La Jolla, go have a look."
There is something quite seductive about paint. It’s not only what can be created with it but the medium itself that is so alluring. The vibrant hues swirled together, the unique texture of smears and splatters are entrancing, making a messy paint palette as visually interesting as the artist’s work on the canvas. North Carolina-based artist Donald Martiny knows this very well, which is why his unique sculptures pay homage to paint. Read the entire article by Katy French for Visual News by clicking here.
In the 1950s, artists like Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline elevated the gesture to the position of the protagonist in abstract expressionism. In the 21st century, Donald Martiny advances that idea considerably further by freeing the gesture of gestural abstraction from the substrate which, heretofore, provided the context that brought gesture to life. Working with polymers and dispersed pigments, Mr. Martiny has developed a methodology that enables him to isolate his sumptuous, almost sculptural, brushstrokes and lift them off the page, so to speak. The nature of his material is such that Mr. Martiny can work in a much larger scale than if he were dependent on a canvas surface; indeed, each singular brushstroke might range from two- to as much as six-feet in length. Installed, these compelling monochromatic gestures immediately breathe a new kind of life into the gallery space.
Historically, Mr. Martiny’s work to date fits right into the continuum of monochromatic painting, a contemporary reductive movement which has advanced the concerns and broadened the interests of the classic Minimalists of the 1960s and of the much earlier Suprematists, who openly sought the ‘death of painting” with their monochromatic efforts. Mr. Martiny, belongs to a family of painters which includes such luminaries as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Frank Stella, and Olivier Mossett. Quite amazingly, each of these distinguished artists brought something noticeably different to this admittedly singular and restrictive approach to painting. Prior to Mr. Martiny, though, each of these other great painters relied on manipulating the relationship between canvas and pigment to achieve subtle, nuanced differences in each painting. Mr. Martiny has greatly expanded the painterly agenda by taking the brushstroke completely off the canvas entirely. I applaud his commitment to furthering the monochromatic agenda and his ability to make fresh, new work that acknowledges, rather than negates, decades of previous good work. Rather than hastening the death of painting as Rodchenko forecast, monochromatic painting has already enjoyed a long life line and, in the hands of Donald Martiny, is clearly alive and well.
Charles A. Shepard III
President and CEO
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Donald Martiny's recent paintings are monochromatic works whose medium is a mixture of polymer and dispersed pigment. Though he calls them paintings, they appear much like sculptures, as each one is a three dimensional, very physical representation of a brushstroke. Here, painting is both the subject and content of the work, examining and exploring the anatomy of the size dimensions, and contours of an individual stroke of the brush. Each work depicts a particular motion of the brush, giving each gesture an individual character, shape and identity.
Martiny's color palette is limited to the use of primary red, yellow, green or blue. The sole variation on the theme of the brush stroke is size. the works are either very large (83" x 45") or much smaller. A large work like "Pigeon Lake" not only occupies much more space, but is more effective in portraying the visual detail, marks, and nuances that a brushstroke creates. Te sum of the parts here is greater than the whole- echoing the manner in which each brushstroke has key significance in the developmnent of a painting. And every painting is created with intention, one stroke at a time. By Cathy Breslaw for Artscene / Visual Art Source.