Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sam Martineau “Fair Touching” @ Rawson Projects

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at art in Brooklyn of late, and with the flooding of Chelsea, it may be that a lot more people will be spending more time looking at art in Brooklyn. Two things come to mind the more time I spend in Brooklyn: one, very little photography is being shown here, and two, if you don’t like abstract painting, you’re really not going to have a lot to look at. Which has brought up some interesting questions for me, one in particular from an old photography friend who shall remain nameless. The gist of the critique was that much of what was going on in Brooklyn was just decorative, and at the time I didn’t really have a lot to retort. So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about abstract painting and what makes it something more than just a graphic exercise. Sam Martineau’s was very helpful to me in thinking about contemporary painting (a field I make no claims of expertise). Despite copping lots of little stylistic tics from more famous types, he manages to form something new by skillfully crafting a diversity of images that vary in approach and technique but come together nicely through sticking to a similar creamy and slightly washed-out color palate and maintaining a consistent scale and format to the paintings. The diversity of style ranges from short little cross-hatchings that look like a Matisse doodle or large scratchy letters that come off as a more focused Cy Twombly to what appears to be collaged cloth resembling a very stylish and minimalist Rauschenberg. The references to dated artistic ideas seem reflect a lack of interest in contemporary art or a lack of drive to push the medium forward. Rather, they appear to be a knowing play on the current historical state (post death) of painting.

Even more interesting to me in Martineau’s work is how much I responded to the color palate in his otherwise minimal and abstract paintings with their faded blues and pinks on dirty cream back drops. It all felt very seventies, including the tie dye painting, references to Pirelli and an orange, red and black-striped painting that looks like the logo of a seventies German fixed-speed Olympic bike team. What I am trying to say is that Martineau is able to is elicit an emotional response that reflects my fondness for Wes Anderson’s ability to set movies in a timeless space that is somehow contemporary while inhabited by people right out of an early seventies period piece. At the same time, Martineau evokes a childhood sentimentality about the styles and colors that were cool in the early eighties where things still had a decidedly seventies flair. Provoking those responses while producing something new and original is pretty good and far from just decorative, especially for, say, four strips of color on white backdrop.

Already down
Rawson Projects (223 Franklin St., Btw. Eagle & Freeman Sts., Greenpoint, NY)


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