Caged Canaries Give Way to a Haunting Narrative in Enrique Martínez Celaya’s L.A. Exhibition
The great 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s book The World as Will and Representation can be read as a sort of artistic treatise. The book takes the position that humanity is driven by a dissatisfied will. It’s an idea that isn’t unique to artists, but can certainly be applied to them.
Cuban-born, Los Angeles-based artist Enrique Martínez Celaya is known for his figurative, and often narrative, paintings and sculptures. Over four solo shows at L.A. Louver, he has created ambitious representative works that tackle a hornet’s nest of thoughts, through which he works on a daily basis in his studio. Scraps of paper fill up with notes, ideas, and concepts, which the artist then translates into lush canvases and installations. Martínez Celaya’s creation is driven by the will to fill canvases, build, and craft sculptures.
Martínez Celaya’s new show, “Enrique Martínez Celaya: Lone Star,” points to Schopenhauer as a guiding force within the work. Two separate paintings depict the philosopher’s childhood home, while the same form shows up again in one of the show’s two installations as a sculpted birdcage with a live canary fluttering about inside.
The other of the installations also features a birdcage, this one with a life size bronze sculpture of a boy inside that the birds may perch upon. This boy returns as a motif in other paintings. In one, he naps, using a stingray as a pillow. In another, the boy hangs from a tree branch.
In these paintings, a poetic sort of story starts to form—a tale of innocence and melancholy—that emits from the paintings to the viewer. But the story never really comes into focus, insofar as the signifiers never connect in a literal way. In this, “Lone Star” becomes a mysterious world of environments and scenes that haunt and bewilder as much as they are satisfyingly beautiful.
“Enrique Martínez Celaya: Lone Star” is on view at L.A. Louver, Apr. 9 – May 16, 2015.