Patrick Martinez at the Charlie James Gallery
By Genie Davis
Through February 18th
All Season Portfolio, at the Charlie James Gallery through February 18th, is a tour de force by LA-based artist Patrick Martinez. Paintings, drawings, and sculpture are all on display by a quintessential Los Angeleno.
Martinez’ diverse roots as a Filipino, Mexican, and Native American are interwoven in the true melting-pot society of Los Angeles. His powerful work is similarly a mixed heritage, memorializing police brutality victims in paintings and drawings, offering neon sculptures that present a mix of Hip Hop lyrics and signage, and presenting stucco paintings that evoke the spirit of Los Angeles architecture and heritage. These works are time capsules of today, caught in the preserved amber clarity of an artist’s moment, conceptually powerful and visually riveting.
The vivid yellows and orange in the artist’s “Po-lice Misconduct Misprint” create the look of a period-magazine advertisement. But what is depicted here is more of a public service message about police brutality, with three images, one depicting the shooting of Walter Scott at a traffic stop in South Carolina; another the Staten Island death by chokehold of Eric Garner; and the third a NYPD stop and frisk. The artist uses a similar style with pieces featuring mint, royal blue, and pink backgrounds depicting other deaths, as well as with his “All Female” Portfolio that chronicles yet more unwonted death by cop.
More subtle but equally trenchant is Martinez’ funeral rose heart, “American Memorial,” a 3-D beauty that channels the spirit of sculpture and origami in ceramic, acrylic and stucco on panel.
Ceramic floral bouquets and a single neon rose are the subjects in his large-scale “Funerals and Birthdays,” where a lush pink background fades like a sunset behind these vivid flowers in a silent tribute to life and death.
The piece is a strong segue to the artist’s purely neon verbiage. “Then They Came for Me” in a pulsating green neon is a powerful, alarming contrast to the license-plate-holder in gold shaping mint green neon entreating us to “Rise.” His neon work in “United States of America,” with the word ‘united’ in a dim yet burning red and blue – like a fire soon to die – is nothing short of brilliant. ‘States of America’ is created in a stand-out pale silvery blue, while the background looks like still-seething ashes. “All Men are Created Equal” follows a similar structure, with the word ‘equal’ burning dark.
Viewed as an exhibition, rather that individual pieces, viewers are struck by the aching sorrow and anger in these stories of loss. Whether we are looking at images of police brutality that exceeds the realm of understanding or images of a rapidly changing America that is also difficult to comprehend, Martinez takes a subject that is all too heavy on our hearts these days and infuses them with something easy to “get into” in terms of the vivid palette and clear, simple depictions.
If the paintings and sketches exude a throw-back feel, the neon works sing of a darker future as signified by the current administration.
These are stories and signage paying honor to past actions we should not forget and serving up a caution against that we have all too easily begun to slip towards.
As far as commentary on law enforcement and America’s future, these works say it like it is and then some. And when it comes to style and form, the works make truth palatable and accessible.
With more political statements popping up in art everywhere these days, Martinez’ candy colored but hardly sugar coated wisdom stands out.
The Charlie James gallery is located in DTLA’s Chinatown at 969 Chunk King Road through February 18th.