May 18 – July 18, 2022
May 18 – July 18, 2022
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to announce the gallery’s sixth online viewing room, Mario Martinez: New York Yaqui. Opening May 18, 2022, the exhibition features five of the artist’s intricate pencil, Prismacolor, charcoal, and oil pastel works.
While rigorously abstract, the artist’s compositions are frequently characterized by a unique comingling of urban and organic elements. In Imaginary Brooklyn Flowerscape (2014), hard, angular structures are interrupted by curving, flowing forms. Large swaths of grayscale—befitting of a cityscape—are flooded with more bucolic purples, greens, yellows, and blues.
A great admirer of the New York School and Abstract Expressionists, Martinez’s canvases are remarkable for their turbulent painted surfaces that recall those of Gorky or de Kooning. Here, the artist’s impulse is channeled into his exuberant use of pastels. Floral shapes hint at the pre-Christian Yaqui concept of sea ania, or the flower world: a beautiful, ever-present parallel reality. Within this and other works, the hectic city is nestled within the cosmos and nature, to which it ultimately belongs.
While he avoids direct references to Yaqui traditions, cryptic allusions permeate his work. “I know people expect figuration from Natives,” the artist says, noting that abstraction itself has “been in Indian and Indigenous cultures forever.” In Reflections, Late 1960's (2020), the artist’s prismatic use of color evokes sunlight, sky, and water. Traditional Yaqui patterns emerge only fleetingly. Despite the influence of Spanish Jesuits in the 16th century, Yaqui religion maintained a deep, foundational reverence for nature that is detectable in many of the artist’s works.
“Our most ancient spiritual and ceremonial traditions honor the earth and the heavens,” says Martinez.
In Fanciful New Terrain (2020), Martinez reveals his art historical familiarity. Framed in a small, square patch of cloud blue pastel, an abstract form evokes Picasso’s cubism. Another, to its right, recalls Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. The 20th century’s infatuation with modernity reached its apogee in Italian Futurists, like Boccioni—who sought to make their rupture from the past complete—and in the disastrous forays into fascism that followed. While Martinez’s compositions often contain some of the tempestous energy of modernism, the artist seems to sidestep its more torturous elements—its disorientation, alienation, and remotness from the past.
“I’m part of a 40,000-year tradition,” Martinez says of his practice, which comfortably integrates pre- and post-colonial painting traditions.
Born in 1953 in Penjamo village, a Yaqui settlement in Scottsdale, Arizona, Mario Martinez is an enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. He received his BFA from the School of Art, Arizona State University in 1979, and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985.
Since 1991, Mario Martinez’s work has appeared in over 48 solo and group exhibitions at prestigious venues, such as the Denver Art Museum (1995, 1998), the Montclair Art Museum (2018–2020), and the Eiteljorg Museum (2015–2016, 2017–2018, Indianapolis). In 2005, he was the subject of a major mid-career retrospective at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian (New York). He has received numerous grants and awards, including a Native Arts Research Fellowship, (1998, National Museum of the American Indian); an Artist in Residence Fellowship (2001–2002, National Museum of the American Indian); a Joan Mitchell Foundation CALL Grant (2013–2014); a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2014–2015); and the Murray Reich Distinguished Artist Award (2017, New York Foundation for the Arts). Martinez’s work is featured in the collections of numerous museums and institutions across the country, such as the Museum of Contemporary Native American Art (Santa Fe); the Eiteljorg Museum (Indianapolis); the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.); the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago); and the Heard Museum (Phoenix), among others.
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Mario Martinez.
Mario Martinez: New York Yaqui will be available to view online through July 18, 2022. For more information, please contact Garth Greenan at (212) 929-1351, or email email@example.com.