Eddie Martinez - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'The cosmic hooks, the summoning of spirits, the virtuoso line, the command of colour and composition — it all adds up to its own kind of brilliance.'
    —Dr. Lisa Fischman
    Bold, energetic, visceral and thought provoking, Eddie Martinez’s Mandala #7 (Frankenthaler Wash), 2016, encapsulates the artist’s immense energy and reflective influential subject matter from which the work takes its name. Celebrated as part of a suite of seven large scale works that marked the artist’s first solo museum show, Ants at a Picknic at the Davis Museum, Boston in 2017, the works highlight Martinez’s diverse inspirations from the graffiti and skateboarding culture of New York to Buddhist religious practice.


    Initially inspired by the artist’s earlier sketch book studies of mandalas, Martinez enlarged the images and used silkscreen ink to replicate the small drawings onto the final canvases. The mandala series reflect Martinez’s love of graffiti in their fast-moving freedom of line whilst also highlighting the importance of drawing and the skill it developed for both his graffiti and large painted canvas studio works. Highly admired for his textural surfaces created in a multitude of media, the Mandala works vibrantly pulsate with a thick impasto of oil paint, spray paint, and other varied materials, including scraps of fabric and baby wipes. As the artist explained, ‘I was in a state of turmoil and got obsessed with the amount of trash I was producing. And so I just started sticking it onto the canvas.’i The result is a wonderfully absorbing and engaging abstraction.


    In conjunction with the Ants at a Picknic exhibition, visiting Buddhist monks from Ithaca, New York, constructed a richly complex Medicine Buddha sand mandala – a shape infused with healing properties - amidst the paintings in the gallery space. Mandalas are microcosms. For Martinez, they represent his world, his inner thoughts and compulsive approach to drawings, much as a Buddhist mandala represents a microcosm of the entire universe. In contrast however to the painstakingly meticulous creation of the Buddhist practice which is then importantly swept away and eradicated upon creation, Martinez embodies the spiritual and reflective importance whilst creating an excitingly poignant and permanent record.


    Eddie Martinez, Installation view of Ants at a Picknic at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, MA, 2017. Image: © Eddie Martinez. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
    Eddie Martinez, Installation view of Ants at a Picknic at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, MA, 2017. Image: © Eddie Martinez. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

    In interview with Forbes magazine Martinez spoke about the inspiration for his works and the exhibition:


    Forbes: Why is the title Ants at a Picknic?


    EM: I don't know. I think it’s just a funny quote about something being spoiled. I don't know why it’s spelled like that. It just kind of happened in the sketchbook. I was watching the highly intellectual television program Family Guy and they just did a funny bit about ants at a picnic and it really resonated with me. That’s where it came from. It was a visual of ants - ruining a picnic.


    Forbes: What inspired this exhibition?


    EM: My assistant found these drawings of mandalas that I made in 2005 in a flat file and it totally rejuvenated my interest in them. And [Director] Lisa [Fischman] gave me a lot of freedom for what this exhibition could be. So I decided I wanted to revisit the mandalas and I started drawing them a lot. And then I started painting them. And that’s just what it became. I was really wanting to do them large scale, which made a lot of sense for an institution. And we went from there.


    Forbes: When did you start to gravitate towards mandalas and why?


    EM: When I was really young I thought I was a Buddhist, or something. But, you know. I wasn’t. I was always interested in meditation. I mean, now, I have a daily practice. I think I just liked the repetition. Also, they are really a container for shapes and marks. It’s something I’ve gravitated to over the past decade – this idea of the container. I used make these tabletop still lifes, where everything kind of fit into that rectangular shape. I also created a character - this other personality, or an alter ego, called Spirit Duder. And in the first Spirit Duder drawing—it’s in the catalogue—he's looking up at this floating mandala with crazy eyeballs. I don't know. It's something that stuck with me.


    Forbes: Tell me about the mandalas you created for the exhibition.


    EM: Well, they’re all based drawings, except for the black and white painting. They’re all based on small drawings, and then they’re blown up really huge. The first step is to silk screen them on canvas – just the black skeleton. And then I take it from there. The black and white painting is probably the most true to the original drawing.


    Forbes: Why is that one the only one without color?


    EM: Since I started using this process of silkscreen, in every body of work that I’m making, I like to make at least one piece that’s black and white. But I’m also not comfortable with just silk screening on canvas and not adding anything to it. It’s just not the kind of painting I’m interested in. So in this instance, I built up the black.


    Forbes: I know that the creation of mandalas is a spiritual practice. Do you get a spiritual fulfillment from creating these, or is it separate from your personal spirituality?


    EM: I think the act of drawing and the act of painting definitely fill a spiritual place for me. There’s nothing intentional while making them - I don’t try to present any kind of spiritual association. But that said, having them here in this room in the Davis Museum, when we installed this show two weeks ago, they were hanging and the lighting wasn’t really ready yet, so it was kind of dim in here and I just sat and looked at them individually. And I had what could be considered a spiritual experience.


    Forbes: Can you explain how your works are biographical in nature?


    EM: Well, when I talk about drawing as being biographical, it’s because I always have paper or a pad or something. And so they’re all biographical, in that way. I’m writing things down, what I’m thinking or hearing. When I travel I draw a lot.


    Forbes: You also have the show at the Drawing Center that’s opening soon. And can you talk a little bit about that practice, highlighted there– your studio wall? You’re always drawing.


    EM: Yeah. So I don't really draw in the studio. But all the small drawings, like the things that become these big paintings, etc. I do them at home, or out and about, and then I’ll bring them into the studio. I put them up on the big wall so there’s up to 1,000 drawings just kind of tacked together. I use that as a sounding board, and also sometimes I’ll grab them while I’m painting and walk around and take things from them.


    i Eddie Martinez, in conversation with Bill Powers, I Needed to Figure Out Something I Could Make Myself, 25 January 2016, ARTnews, online

    • Provenance

      Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Boston, The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Eddie Martinez: Ants at a Picknic, 19 September - 17 December 2017

    • Literature

      Joelle Jameson, Eddie Martinez and Contemporary South African Prints at Wellesley’s Davis Museum, AEQAI, 29 October 2017, online (illustrated)
      Ann Binlot, Eddie Martinez Opens His First Museum Show At The Davis Museum, Forbes, 27 October 2017, online (illustrated)


Mandala #7 (Frankenthaler Wash)

signed with the artist's initials 'EM' upper centre; signed 'Eddie Martinez' on the reverse
silkscreen ink, oil, spray paint, thumbtacks and collaged canvas on canvas
305.2 x 244 cm (120 1/8 x 96 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £201,600

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021