Monday, August 06, 2012

Jim Martin

FAQ, 2011 - Acrylic, copper leaf, patina on paper 23 1/2 x 17 inches 

A re-post from my article in in July.

Holly Johnson Gallery presents Jim Martin and his language based paintings. But to say the work is painting is not enough to describe them, and to say these works are about language barely scratches the surface behind the meanings of the works.

Martin’s process of painting is not traditional pigments on a surface. He works on canvas and paper with copper leaf and patinas that give the surfaces some age. Martin’s paintings reminded me of artists before the invention of the tube of paint. Past artists had to mix chemicals to create colors and even now, the glazes mixed by potters and printmakers are closer to this ground up approach to making images. By allowing chemicals to work the surface, Martin adds an element of controlled chance to each surface. Martin’s process is taken from long standing traditions in sculpture, architecture, furniture, and precious objects. I still designate these works as paintings, because he uses a flat surface, the images are framed as paintings, and his surface mark making still references past gestures. Only now Martin brings patina to the painting tradition.

Martin’s content uses the past and present to create something with an ancient look, but with new language jargon. The ancient not only is referenced in the weathered look of the patina, but his use of Phoenician letters in the place to our Modern Latin letters. The Phoenician alphabet dates back to about 1050 BC and the language influenced the Greek alphabet and later our own letters. I think Martin is further obscuring the acronyms because this adds to the confusion felt when you find yourself talking outside your peer group or industry. I remember talking to my friend in the military and in every sentence I had to have her clarify her acronyms. Even then, I was still unclear of the real meanings. Martin found himself in the same situation in an Exxon-Mobil meeting many years ago. The use of acronyms made the meeting lose all meaning to an outsider.

Martin’s style mixes a kind of figurative gestural motion similar to that of Jackson Pollock, with a surface reminiscent of Jean Dubuffet’s textured paintings, and a highly conceptual thought based on the linguistic analysis of Quinn or philosophy of Derrida. Poststructuralists have been suspicious of metaphors and Martin’s work masterfully further pushes the effects of the metaphor to take us out and away from other groups.

You can start to decode Jim Martin’s show “Initialisms” at Holly Johnson Gallery, which will be up until August 11th. for more images.

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