The amount of material; physically, socially and historically, that goes into a work of Patrick Martinez is dense and incredibly immersive. It’s work that speaks to Los Angeles in both a poetic and aesthetic sense, and then as LA has the ability to take what it makes and send it out to the world in universally cinematic ways, Martinez’ work does the same. But it feels like the overgrowth of LA just on a simple street level sense. The works feel like a bougainvillea bush growing over a fence and onto a sidewalk. The way a neon sign is both a sign of life and also a sign of emptiness.
For his introduction to the famed White Cube Gallery in London, the LA-based Martinez is presenting an online exhibition of paintings, drawings and his signature neon signage. The paintings are dense with the fading and reviving of the LA landscape, works packed with a story of immigration, immersion and political transgressions. “I feel stripped from some of my history, and I think that ‘lost and found’ idea is 100 percent American,” Martinez says. “Maybe I am creating my own story because of that lost history. I envision the art I make as artifacts that will speak to future generations while preserving the beautiful complexity of my roots.”
This is where the works feel purposely dense and historically acute. Martinez is playing with the contemporary while giving us a past. He envisions the movement to LA as a story of our movement everywhere. I was struck by something Martinez told me in an interview last year. “How could I use that palm tree that already exists and use it in a bioscape in my painting? Because I’m always thinking about how I can build a landscape with the materials that already exist. So, palm trees, obviously, exist in LA, and I’m trying to find the connection between existing vocabulary that is both from here and about coming here. Then it’s loaded, right? Because we’re talking about people who are coming here from different paradises to their idea of paradise—or what they thought of a paradise that is Los Angeles.”
Where Martinez is at now is a global storyteller who found his way using the LA landscape as the perfect backdrop. It’s perfectly and profoundly in its right place in so many ways. —Evan Pricco