Enrique Martínez Celaya, Awaiting a second plan
Sara Meltzer Gallery is proud to present Awaiting a second plan, an installation of new works by Enrique Martínez Celaya. This is Martínez Celaya's inaugural exhibition at Sara Meltzer Gallery. The exhibition consists of painting, sculpture, a suite of watercolors and a photograph. The work, philosophical in nature but intensely considered and visually resolved, furthers the artist's exploration of time vis-à-vis themes of identity and mortality.
The iconography of the work includes youths, trees, barren fields and winter landscapes as well as soap bubbles, light flares and the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam. While this is Martínez Celaya's most colorful project to date, it remains a muted register with occasional bursts of color. The paintings, created from memory, are made with glazes of oil and wax, a layering process that bestows the work with a luminous and mysterious quality in contrast to the rawness of the paint handling. Two bronze sculptures embody the idea of the boy depicted in the painting, extending his presence into the gallery space, almost like religious statues marking the location of the boys at a moment in time. The suite of watercolors suggests a narrative of transformation that re-interprets and confounds the ideas offered by the other works. The artist has also included a photograph (he does only two or three a year) of a girl's back with a tattoo of Mandelshtam's face after his second arrest.
The artist has written, "that Nadezhda Mandelshtam kept her husband's poetry memorized--because she feared the repercussions of paper--is a moving and faithful gesture; Nadezha [which means hope in Russian] was faithful to Osip's work, and she also had faith in the future, and we have faith her recollection is right, a lot of faith and hope and much possibility for failure. Awaiting a second plan, as a statement, simultaneously confesses failure and hope, and it is that simultaneity that interests me. To be human is to vacillate between hope and failure, creating the illusion that they exist simultaneously. While the instability of that appearance is a fundamental source of grief, the possibility that hope and failure exist simultaneously gives life meaning."
The artist's influences for this exhibition include the writings of Kierkegaard and the poetry of Mandelshtam and Harry Martinson. Educated as a physicist and an artist, Martínez Celaya moves comfortably between emotional explorations and intellectual examinations. This combination of background and interests in aesthetic and ethical systems are consistent with the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the romantic desire to create a total work of art.
Enrique Martínez Celaya (b. Cuba, 1964) studied Physics at Cornell University and Quantum Electronics at the University of California, Berkeley where he was supported by a fellowship from the Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1994, five years after abandoning the Ph.D. program at Berkeley, he concluded his M.F.A. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was awarded the highest honor and a department fellowship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine. From 1994-2003 he was a tenured professor at Pomona College and the Claremont Graduate University.
Martínez Celaya has created projects for cultural institutions on an international scale. His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Museum der Bildenden Künste Leipzig, Germany and others. His awards include the Anderson Ranch National Artist Award, the California Community Foundation Fellowship, J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Art Here and Now Award and the Hirsch Grant. In addition to his visual work, he has written and edited books, papers and essays on the nature of art and its relationship to literature, science and philosophy. In 1998 he founded Whale and Star, a publishing house whose books are distributed internationally. In the fall of 2007, Martínez Celaya will have a solo exhibition at Miami Art Museum, FL.