EP&M Online Review:  Philip Martin, artist

Philip Martin
 Belanthi Gallery

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. 

Philip Martin at Belanthi Opening
Artist Philip Martin

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 flowers. 

Martin discusses work

Philip 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 either.