Written by Jennifer Wolf
Colombian American Artist Jamie Martinez recently had a trio of exhibitions on view across Manhattan and Brooklyn. As both an artist and curator, Martinez is engaged with the idea of pushing boundaries literally and figuratively.
The first of these exhibitions, Intricate Neighbors, (May 4 – June 9) marks the second showing at Martinez’s Bushwick project space The Border, which is dedicated to opening a dialogue with artists who have emigrated to the United States. With this worthy and politically-charged concept firmly in mind, Intricate Neighbors literally provides a common space for pieces of art to enter into conversation with one another. The gallery is reconceived as the common green of a suburban apartment complex, and is transformed into a garden through the integration of grass and greenery throughout the space. By creating this immersive (and frankly relaxing) experience, Martinez invites visitors to take a leisurely glance into the worlds of the included artists by implying their own domestic ownership of this common space.
Ara Cho’s whimsical painting style fits in well with the otherworldly, transformative quality evoked by the flowers that hang from the surrounding walls. Sahana Ramarkrishnan ’s figurative mixed-media painting seems to be the representation of a permanent resident of the garden, and in the spirit of The Border, draws upon her own Indian background as well as specific elements of Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek mythology. French Visual artist Bianca Boragi’s mesmerizing video Cotton Candy adds a surreal touch as viewers watch a woman eat what at first appears to be her hair, but turns out to be a carnival treat. Rebecca Goyette, best known for her recent works that tackle Donald Trump’s various controversies, contributes a small, haunting sculpture of a woman-lobster hybrid laying spread eagle across a bath tub. The lobster has become symbolic in many men’s rights movements and amongst many American Alt-Right groups as psychologist Jordan Peterson’s concepts were embraced by both groups, and also quite popular with many Trump supporters. Hyon Gyon’s work, in combining abstract paintings and a formation of flowers, summarizes the very idea of this exhibition: that of active and ongoing artistic exchange based on a common space, whether that be in this fantastical garden space or the United States itself.
The Border’s exhibition is supplemented by Intricate Neighbors II at Galerie Protégé in Chelsea (May 17 – June 17), where the garden concept continues with a different set of artists. Like its partner, Intricate Neighbors II integrates a wide range of artistic expression: Boragi, Cho, and Ramarkrishnan are again represented, and here joined by artists Bolo, Denise Treizman, Monique Mantell, and Jamie Martinez. Artist duo Bolo bring to the exhibition an exploration of political rhetoric in their video Carousel, tying into Martinez’s focus on immigration through his ongoing project at The Border. Treizman contributes a geometric sculpture that anchors the middle of the room, truly adding to the environmental experience a feeling of spontaneity in the gallery. Mantell’s floral and anatomical drawing adds to the duality of natural beauty and the slightest sense of unease that underlies both segments of Intricate Neighbors. Martinez himself rounds out this section of the exhibition with a copper and fiber optic piece in his signature triangulation style, adding a self-lit, reflective element that encourages the illusion of being outside.
Martinez’s work has also been on view alongside that of Suejin Jo in Triangle Dialogues at Chashama through May 26. Both artists utilize a common vocabulary of triangles, and here they had the opportunity to come together in a direct connection. Jo presented a series of strong abstract paintings that utilize the strength and stability of the triangular forms as their starting points. Meanwhile, Martinez showed both painting and sculptural work, providing an overview of the diverse ways that he consistently utilizes triangles as his inspiration from which to build up imagery.
Together, these exhibitions represent a stand-alone, ephemeral and monumental achievement: from May 17 through May 26, during which time all three have been concurrently open to the public, an imaginary “triangle” has been formed between the locations. As such, this project represents a colossal undertaking in the vein of land art, crisscrossing through the city of New York. In this sense, it has become the largest in scale and scope of Martinez’s significant body of work based on triangulation and one to remember.