Hunt for Inspiration at Galerie Protégé
By Zach Eichelberger
The question of authorship is a relatively old one, but one that continues with some relevance today. Passing art history’s ideas of appropriation, the question returned as notable art stars took to the role of “producer/architect” with large studios of assistants turning out fabulously expensive and often times perfectly crafted items of cultural grist.
The notion of authorship might be in question at the new exhibition of work by Jamie Martinez in a show titled “Hunt for Inspiration” curated by Oscar Laluyan. As expressed by the many small plaques adorning the gallery walls, visitors are encouraged to view and, one assumes, snap the painted images using the cameras in their phones. The reason for this, according to the artist, is three-fold: the paintings’ figuration becomes clearer in the camera’s lens, the image is thus “validated” according to Martinez, after which a subsequent online post gives the doc-umentation a “life of its own.” One may be lead to wonder exactly where the art or artist begins and ends in such work if indeed the snapped image of the painting to have its own and separate existence from the original is the intended result. Is it interactive or a clever way of getting more exposure as gallery goers may presumably turn to social media to display their new photos?
The title wall sports the show’s name and curator as well as the artist’s name – below which is an emblazoned black triangle as if to signal a cynical view of social disparity in the works’ thematic departure. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs perhaps? Or that especially pernicious business model, the “pyramid scheme” – a term no one can invoke without an obligatory eye roll. But the work on display betrays no such notions. Rather, the triangle is the means by which Martinez renders two-dimensional form. Some paintings are comprised of wooden squares fastened together grid-like and sectioned off into right triangles resulting in something of a pixilated image. Others are assembled from fabric and a few seem to be computer generated.
The use of a camera may in fact give a more definite read of the image simply by re-ducing the individual triangles and scale of the work as a whole resulting in a more visually accessible image, but one can generally make out the content without such assistance. Several of the paintings are portraits of predatory animals, which have perhaps been culled from the internet as they lack a personal character as opposed to a “stock image” quality: the eagle is caught in repose, a lioness and tiger growl and a wolf snarls. This last is immediately readable as Martinez’s triangular rendering is gridded off in a crystalline fashion; subtler features are examined with tinier and more irregular triangles as if looking at a topographical map. The most successful of the animal portraits, however, is probably the bald eagle whose naturally angular features of eyes and beak compliment the triangular pixilation Martinez employs. Set against an ivory black background is the contrasting white of the eagle with various satisfying tones of blues and gray denoting shadow.
Whether the viewer concludes that the triangles are representative of a hierarchy, a food chain – jungle or art world – or are perhaps simply utilized as the chosen visual conceit, Martinez’s work is at once simple and indirect. If they are found to be less than “interactive” they are certainly very “user-friendly”.
Jamie Martinez, “Hunt for Inspiration” will be on view at Galerie Protégé 197 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011 until April 23, 2015.