Review: Philip Martin, artist
Painting in a studio not much
larger than a closet for more than forty years, artist Philip Martin,
until very recently, might have been described as an anachronism for
his neoclassical drawing, and for his remarkable conflation of imagery
from both American myth and history and classical myth, as well as for
his frequent and often ironic reference to European masters. His
studio may be tiny, but Martin rarely presents small works.
Indeed, in his haunting and evocative series of oil paintings of jazz
divas and musicians, 30 x 40 or larger is common. The drawings
presented throughout May at the Belanthi Gallery aren’t quite that
large, but they have a similar impact.
Several are powerful statements about male and female, which
gain the power of archetypes by conflation with both African-American
and European imagery. In “Chicken Hawk,” for instance, a
group of women, holding infants, or pregnant, charge into a square
where a male figure, a cross between a harlequin and a Punch ‘n Judy
character, stands at a podium in front of some variety of show and
harangues them. Beneath, a tiny male figure, more a doll, lies
crumbled against the podium. Fury, defiance, and resignation burn
from the drawing, yet its execution is refined, its composition
balanced, a beautiful ironic commentary on the imagery that says far
more than any fragmented, expressionist technique might accomplish.
As Picasso did, Martin portrays the artist, or his view of the artist,
in many of these drawings. Sometimes, as in “A Lady,” the artist
is a delighted equal. In others, he is a leering monster, in
still others a diminutive figure overpowered by beautiful women of
Amazonian scale. The archetypal male and female figures
reverse classic connotations of gender, the female a force of nature,
the male almost incidental. In the only drawing where the male
figure could have clearly overpowered the female, he is a slaughtered
bull, to whom an almost dainty mother and child offer a memory of
Martin at Opening
Martin's work far predates a group of artists who describe themselves
as neo-classic, and suggests that what is perceived in the art press as
all that's being done is more
a reflection of trends and public relations campaigns than the
truth. As in poetry, the current Expansive movement is more
a shout of "We're here too!" than a revival of a lost art.
Martin is here to be noticed now in this fine show.
The reputations of artists have always depended upon who sees their
work. Martin deserves a far wider one. You can see this
show until the 28th of May at the Belanthi Gallery, which is located at
142 Court Street in Brooklyn, at the corner of Pacific and Court
Streets. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 2PM-7PM, and
Saturday 10AM to 4PM. Do yourself a favor and see this
show. You can reach the gallery at 718-855-2769.
After the show, artist Martin's other work may be seen, as he is
regularly represented by the Belanthi. Don't miss that