Artist Enrique Martínez Celaya incorporates multiple media to express his vision of art and life: painting, sculpture, photography or writing. These disciplines are intertwined in particular contexts or environments, in which the line that separates art, philosophy, literature and religion almost seems to disappear. From February 2 to March 7, the complexity of his oeuvre will be displayed at Andersson/Sandström Gallery in Umeå, Sweden, in the exhibition titled A Wasted Journey, A Half-Finished Blaze.
Enrique Martínez Celaya frequently uses the human figure as a way of exploring the nature of experience and the search for meaning. It is no coincidence that this artist questions himself in such profound ways and from seemingly disparate perspectives. His academic training is already a kind of contrast. He has a degree in Applied Physics and Engineering from Cornell University, a Ph.D. in Quantum Electronics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Once we learn about his impressive background, it is easier to understand why the artist taps into a variety of sources: Norse poetry, samurai customs, quantum physics, analysis and continental philosophy, Latin American literature and everyday life.
The work of this Cuban American artist has been exhibited worldwide, and is included in the permanent collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Museum der Künste Bildenden in Leipzig, Germany, among others. His teaching experience is also quite extensive, as well as his long list of awards. Among them, the National Artist Award from the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and the Young Talent Award from Los Angeles County Art Museum. His writing and research work include essays on art, poetry, art practice and critical theory, with special emphasis on his Collected Writings and Interviews 1990-2010, published by the University of Nebraska.
Martínez translates his deep understanding of art and science into compelling works and projects. Burning as it were a Lamp is his most recent work, exhibited at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami from 23 November to 16 January. The artist created environments using elements such as wall painting, three walls full of mirrors, and a young man made of bronze standing in front of a pool filled with what appeard to be his own tears. This game of mirrors, fractures and tears, where the human figure is placed at the center of our conceptual concerns, encourages deep reflection.
In his work, the themes of adolescence and literary fiction find a place of inspiration as his iconography rescues unicorns, wolves, colorful birds and children in snowy landscapes, birches, greenery or blue skies. Art critic Denny Matos explains: “his works function as the nostalgic appropriation of an autobiographic moment, in which the depth of the psychological episodes that have marked his life seem to be anchored in the early ages of childhood and adolescence.”
In The Pearl, a project presented by SITE Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2013, the artist transformed nearly 12,000 square feet of gallery space into an immersive environment where he combined painting, sculpture, video, photography, sound, text, images of pine trees, the ocean, a German Shepherd, an elephant made of jewels, and his early musical arrangements. “A pearl grows from an irritation, a desire to seal the disturbance, and this is a fitting way to look at much of what we do with our life, or to what our life has done with and to us”, said Martínez Celaya. In The Pearl, he navigates through memories, feelings and emotions that bring about, in short, a series of contrasts between the natural and the artificial, the popular and the cultured, the urban and the rural.
This artist has much creativity and knowledge to show us, hence his unstoppable agenda for the coming years. His upcoming schedule includes the show at Andersson/Sandström Gallery in Umeå (February 2 – March 7). The artist will be present at the inauguration to talk about his work, accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. This spring, Martínez Celaya will be in London, and in 2015 in Los Angeles at the LA Louver Gallery. also in MOCA, as well as the HOOD Museum of Art in New Hampshire. And for 2016, PAMM Museum, in Miami, is already preparing a retrospective of this prodigious artist who inspires admiration among the public because, as he says, “art is the way I find to understand a wider version of life”. ■