In his new exhibition “Promised Land,” Patrick Martinez reflects on the ever-changing landscape of his native LA. It’s on view at Charlie James Gallery in Chinatown through October 22.
“He's literally bringing this language of the street and of facades of buildings and things that you see just driving around LA into the space of the gallery,” says Lindsay Preston Zappas, founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles.
In his landscape paintings, Martinez layers mixed materials on stucco to mimic city walls and streets. “He creates layers of paintings … then he removes layers using a pressure washer. … And his paintings might be of Mayan or Aztec murals that really call back to history, but then [they’ll also include] sunsets, graffiti marks, advertisements for bouncy castles,” describes Zappas.
Martinez’s work shows what happens when city murals get covered or painted over, then sometimes partially appearing again. Zappas says that’s why “his work almost feels like an excavation of that history.”
Martinez grew up in Pasadena in the 1980s and 1990s and was exposed to graffiti, lowriders, and gang culture. He was 12 when the Rodney King riots happened, which profoundly affected his view of LA.
“I think his work has a lot to do with representation and telling these stories of people of color that don't always get told in our city,” Zappas says.
She spoke with Martinez about his art process for an episode of the CARLA podcast, and learned that he scouts/observes certain things, then draws or photographs them. He plans out his work, but will leave room for unexpected things to happen in his paintings, she says.
Martinez’s work both shows LA’s past and alludes to its future. For example, Zappas says he used to always use neon signs, but now he’s using LED signs due to changing tech. “Things like this track the changing world.”
She adds, “But I think part of that is also thinking about what's looming over our city, which is gentrification — that like these facades that he's painting might not be there [in the future].”
Martinez recently became a father, which shows up in the exhibition, Zappas notes. “[With] the title of the show, ‘Promised Land,’ he's definitely thinking about: Who is the city promised to? Who was it promised to? Who will it be promised to in the future? And I think part of that is definitely thinking about his daughter and the world that he is building for her, and what we’ll leave to the next generation.”