Enrique Martínez Celaya: Concepts and Studies for ‘The Pearl’

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Exhibition Dates:  July 11 – August 17, 2013

Event Description

James Kelly Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new drawings, sculpture and paintings by Enrique Martínez Celaya. This will be the gallery’s first exhibition with Martínez Celaya and will consist of all new works.

This show, Concepts and Studies for The Pearl, is presented concurrently with SITE Santa Fe’s Martínez Celaya show The Pearl. 

The gallery exhibition will consist of drawings and small sculptural maquettes that form the conceptual basis for works in the larger exhibition being presented at SITE Santa Fe.  In effect, these works represent the original ideas that the artist then expanded upon.  The drawings are particularly fresh and immediate in appearance, allowing for a glimpse into the process by which Martínez Celaya arrived at his final compositions. 

The feeling of experimentation and development is also evident in the sculpture being presented in the exhibition.  These small-scale works are particularly effective in showing the fully realized ideas that the larger works convey.  Again, these small-scale sculptures capture the power of ideas that are embodied in the larger works. As with the drawings, these works help one directly experience the artist’s studio practice. It’s as if the viewer is personally visiting the artist’s studio.

To further this feeling of a studio visit, the exhibition will also include two studio worktables upon which are displayed sketchbooks, working drawings, small sculptures and other objects.  In addition, there will be several small-scale paintings that further illustrate the concepts Martínez Celaya is presenting in the exhibition The Pearl.

Regarding the title of the exhibition: Concepts and Studies for The Pearl, the artist has said, “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 us and to us.”

The works in the gallery exhibition illustrate ideas and imagery that has long interested the artist; the natural world, his childhood home, the pine tree, the songbird, water, the ocean, the dog and the house.  These ideas combine to evoke a poetic state of mind, where imagination and memory morph into one another.

Martínez Celaya’s interdisciplinary practice, which encompasses painting, sculpture, photography and writing, is influenced by a wide array of interests including Nordic poetry, samurai mores, quantum physics, the emotional mechanisms of kitsch, analytic and continental philosophy, Latin American literature and everyday life. Martínez Celaya begins with the autobiographical to explore the universal. Although his figures echo archetype-like symbols alluding to larger existential concerns, the artist considers the subject matter as the framework of his practice to be constantly evolving.

Born in Cuba in 1964, Martínez Celaya spent much of his childhood in Spain and Puerto Rico. As a young boy, he developed an interest in art, science, philosophy and literature, which led him to study Applied and Engineering Physics at Cornell University (earning a Bachelor of Science degree), and pursue a Ph.D. in Quantum Electronics at University of California, Berkeley (earning a Master of Science degree). He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and received his M.F.A. (Master’s of Fine Art degree) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Martínez Celaya was Associate Professor of Art at Pomona College and the Claremont Graduate University (1994-2003), and is currently Visiting Presidential Professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He has also taught at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center workshop for many years. Honors include the California Community Foundation Fellowship, J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Here and Now Award, the Hirsch Grant, and Anderson Ranch National Artist Award. In 1998, Martínez Celaya founded Whale & Star Press, a publishing house that distributes its books internationally.

Martínez Celaya has exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI; Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Museum der Bildenden Kunste Leipzig, Germany and Sammlung Rosenkranz, Berlin, Germany. In October 2012, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden announced their acquisition of Martínez Celaya’s painting, The Early Hunger, 2009.

In July 2012, at the invitation of The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Martínez Celaya installed his 15-foot (4.5 m) tall bronze sculpture The Tower of Snow, 2012 in the Great Courtyard of the Winter Palace. The sculpture will remain on view through November 2012, and thereafter will be exhibited at the Konsthallen Strandverket på Marstrand, Sweden as part of their permanent collection. The Tower of Snow pays tribute to Operation Pedro Pan, an organization that brought thousands of Cuban children to the United States from 1960-1962. In honor of their 50th anniversary, another version of the sculpture was dedicated at Miami Dade College (MDC) in October 2012, where it will reside adjacent to the MDC Freedom Tower, facing the port of Miami.

The University of Nebraska Press published the artist’s Collected Writings and Interviews 1990-2010.  Under the imprint Whale and Star Press, Martínez Celaya has published several books on art, poetry, art practice and critical theory.

Enrique Martínez Celaya currently lives and works in Miami, FL.

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