Creative Collagist: Chris Martin

There are several protocols to bear in mind before experiencing a Chris Martin exhibition. Take your preconceived notions of mixed-media painting and color combinations and chuck them out the window. Martin’s bold color choices are exceeded only by the media itself receiving the paint, which could be “just” canvas or an entire Oriental rug to the tabloid newspapers appearing here, his third solo show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Brian Fee, Austin Contributor

Chris Martin | Bus Maniac, 2008-11, oil and collage on canvas, 54” x 45 1/8”
Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash

The newsprint series bears homage to artistic predecessors Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (plus Andy Warhol for the screaming, scandalous headlines), but Martin has locked it seamlessly into his own painterly vocabulary. Off modernist grids of tabloids, he unloads a palette of fruit-chew hues–not yellow, green, and orange, but lemony-yellow, lime-green, and that fluorescent “orange-orange”. Bus Maniac (the name yanked from a headline) features thick, liquid verticals of these colors over 70-point phrases like “Bus Lunatic’s Deadly Shooting” and “Jackson Bollocks!”. A Lioness Roars, a cherry-red neighbor spotlighting Amy Winehouse in a circular yellow accent and tales of Famous Ray’s Greenwich Village pizzaria’s closing (“Ciao, Ciao, Pie-san”), and All Final Prophecies Come True–wide bands of popsicle tones across tales of Michael Jackson’s ghost, sinkholes to a hollow earth, and “Adam and Eve Were Aliens!”–command one gallery wall.

Chris Martin | All Final Prophecies Come True, 2012, oil and collage on canvas, 45” x 37”
Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Chris Martin | Untitled (installation view), 2012, oil and collage on canvas, 118” x 135”
Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Artwork scales run from large to mammoth, with the epic Untitled’s sensual tangerine and black vertical rivers as the visually biggest, due to its display propped on cinderblocks and against a gallery pillar. While October Afternoon is technically the same size (and features a found garden gnome in one of the canvas’ carved holes), Untitled’s placement off the wall makes it just feel huge. Martin injects a bit of collage in this one, too: printouts of frogs, giraffes, and the recurring Amy Winehouse. She’s central in an adjacent, equally-sized canvas R.I.P. Amy Winehouse (bearing a few trace footprints across its shiny black surface), a tiny figurative portrait partially obscured by Julian Schnabel-like gestural brushwork.

Chris Martin | Tony Romo Fallen Hero, 2010-11, Oil and collage on canvas, 31” x 26”
Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Final ingredient to a Martin show: sufficient psychedelia. Collaged images of mushrooms recur throughout the non-newsprint works–plus there is the visual trip within the relatively smallish Tony Romo Fallen Hero, featuring a sportspage image tucked into a pixellated forest of bleeding colors, like the whole canvas went in the wash. It’s the regal Magic Carpet, featuring a rug framing the work and reconstituted to burst from a painted green and orange harlequin pattern, that most reminds me of past Martin exhibitions. His knack for creative collage is concentrated here: painted LPs from Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Jack Johnson soundtrack, prints of mushrooms and James Brown…and of course the carpet itself. It’s a sweet, heady flashback.

Chris Martin | Magic Carpet, 2009, oil and collage on canvas, 88” x 77”
Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash


Brooklyn-based painter Chris Martin’s solo exhibition Staring into the Sun at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, which was accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, concluded in January. His first solo museum show occurred in 2011 at the Corcoran Gallerz of Art in Washington D.C. His third solo exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash runs through March 3.

Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee’s List covers his three loves (art, film and live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).


Recent posts

Thursday, December 22, 2022 - 18:17
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 15:19
Friday, June 26, 2020 - 13:03
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 14:02
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 14:55