text by Ross Simonini

Perrotin, Hong Kong 

May 17 – June 29, 2019 

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Eddie’s work began with the head. It stared back at you and winked. It was always the subject. And then, suddenly the head was gone. For eight years, Eddie refused his characters. Too many people in this world already. Too many eyes on us. Instead, he swam in his private environment of abstraction, a colorful garden of the unknown. And yet, if you knew where to look, you could sometimes see a head, hiding in the weeds or buried beneath the dirt.

I’m talking with Eddie on the phone, sorting this new work out. I keep saying “smorgasbord.” He half-agrees in one of his small humming vocables. Each painting is a full meal. I keep thinking of his feast painting from nine years ago. But this isn’t a body of work, he tells me. This is a key.

A drawing can decode the past. It isn’t only preparation. A study, yes, but of what has already come. Make the mess, then assess. This is how to achieve unthinkingness. Paintings lead to drawings lead to paintings lead to drawings. In this way, drawings are not simply studies of individual pictures, but of an entire the vocabulary of shapes — beak, flower, clover. The whole ecosystem.


I skip over to instagram and spot one of Eddie’s new bronzes. I write him a note about it and we float emojis back and forth: the crying one, the shocked one, the cool one, the sick one. The language of heads.

Painting is an atemporal medium, but it contains time in its techniques: silkscreens, white-outs, black and whites, abstractions, heads. Each one has its time and place in the Martinez timeline. But collage them together and you’ve compressed time, subverted the clean, false narrative of development.

And then, without warning, an eye opens. It peers out at us from somewhere deep in a soup of color. Then another. Then a mouth. Then a contour emerges from the shadows and soon we find the heads have returned, floating free of bodies, like somber gods. They rise to the surface, as if they’d finally been released from a deep sleep at the bottom of the deep ocean. They’re here, among us, and you can’t take your eyes off them.

Courtesy of the artist, Perrotin, and Mitchell-Innes Nash, New York
Photo by Stan Narten, © Eddie Martinez

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