Brooklyn painter Chris Martin’s current exhibition at Mitchell-Inness Nash, which runs through March 3, is an eclectic collection of color, media and styles–his works are soaked in primary and secondary colors, plastered with paper collage and joined here and there by gnomes.
Magic Carpet is as the name suggests: a carpet, hacked apart and put back together haphazardly, with various records and pictures placed on it as a collage. The piece is evocative of a scrapbook, with Mr. Martin bringing soul singers like James Brown into his work. The work also has images of mushrooms, just one hint of the woodland feel of the show, echoed in Gnome, a cement gnome sitting in a corner of the gallery, covered with neon paint, and the brick and aluminum foil sculpture titled Mushroom.
October Afternoon, which greets the visitor at the door, contains a gnome lying in the nook cut out of the canvas, with two woodland scenes pasted on, which look like they were torn out of a nature book.
There’s a madcap energy that is strangely reductive, as a few repeated elements are rigorously exploited.
Mr. Martin paints with bright reds, greens and yellows (particularly in his newspaper series), with black and neon hues. It’s all pure color, fresh from the tube. Even as media and subjects of the work change, the vibrancy of those colors stays constant.
A series of canvases plastered with newspapers is also here. Some works were started as far back as 1989, judging by pages from The New York Post. The papers are coated with various neon and bright colors slathered onto the canvas in patterns like stripes (1,2,3…), checkerboards (All Final Prophecies Come True), or giant spots (A Lioness Roars). There is a sense of time passing, an obtuse look back on memories.
The giant Untitled, a canvas with bright red, green and black wavy shapes running vertically down it, is more in line with Mr. Martin’s past work. The same organic, undulating forms appear in a few other pieces, like Bus Maniac and Hero Lost in Mr. Martin’s newspaper series.
Mr. Martin’s collection has a nostalgic feel, especially in Reverend Al in Mourning and R.I.P. Amy Winehouse. The former is a giant canvas covered in aluminum foil with a photograph of Reverend Sharpton, in mourning over his James Brown’s death. The latter is a large black canvas with Winehouse’s face painted in the middle within red and green boxes, a white symbol obscuring her features. While Mr. Martin memorializes the past in his newspaper series, he mourns the loss of visionaries in the soul community. His colors may be celebratory but the newspaper series and memorial paintings are rather somber.
In a few works, evidence of Mr. Martin’s presence, like a dusty shoe print on a black canvas, is present—a visible reminder of the man behind the painting.