L.A. Artist Patrick Martinez Calls His Studio a ‘Great Escape’ Where He Paints Blooming Bougainvillea on a Colossal Scale
We caught up with the artist to talk about inspiration, techniques, and seeing the Henry Taylor show on two coasts.
Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Martinez is having quite a year. In late September, the ICA San Francisco unveiled Ghost Land, a major public art piece and large-scale sculptural installation that marks one of his most ambitious presentations yet. This November, the artist, who is represented by Charlie James Gallery, will be included at the Broad as part of the exhibition “Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog).” Martinez will also be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary opening in April 2024.
The artist’s broad-ranging practice includes landscape paintings, “cake” paintings, and neon installations, and is heavily focused on exposing and speaking out against racial and socioeconomic injustice. Ghost Land, for instance, pays tribute to urban landscapes that have been lost or destroyed. The artist works to uncover stories of resilience and unity in the face of rapid gentrification.
Martinez’s work is in more than 20 museums’ permanent collections including the Broad, the Whitney Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), among numerous others.
Recently, we caught up with Martinez at his L.A. workspace, in Huntington Park, to talk about his day-to-day studio life. .
What made you choose this particular studio over others?
In Los Angeles, studio space is difficult to find, at least it was back in 2020. I was looking around for months, and when I found this studio it was a big upgrade from the small studio that I had before. My old studio had no windows, no air conditioning, and no heat, and this new space had so many windows plus an HVAC system, and roll-up doors.
The flow of the space was fantastic and I could totally see myself working in it. I had a walk-through with the owner and she mentioned there was a crazy amount of interest in the space. She mentioned that she was familiar with Charlie James Gallery and had been there a few times and was familiar with my work. The next day she contacted me and informed me she would like to rent the space out to me. I was incredibly excited the day I got the keys to the studio, but unfortunately, that was also the day Kobe Bryant passed away. L.A. was hurting and I had mixed emotions. I’ll never forget that day.
Do you have studio assistants or other team members working with you? What do they do?
Yes, I recently added studio assistants into the mix. My brother works with me full-time. He packs all of my work and he helps me with the heavy lifting of new and older works. He also handles all of the shipments for my work. I have another assistant who works part-time, I call him in when I need help with bigger pieces. He paints details and/or cleans up areas of the paintings I’m working on to help me be more productive. And I have an admin assistant that helps with all of my emails and requests.
How many hours do you typically spend in the studio, what time of day do you feel most productive, and what activities fill the majority of that time?
I have a two-year-old daughter, so I get up early. I typically get into the studio early to late morning and work into the early evening. So maybe anywhere from six to eight hours. I feel like I’m most productive in the last four to five hours when I’m warmed up and in a rhythm. I am typically painting, making ceramics or arranging materials on stucco surfaces which are adhered to my wooden panels.
What is the first thing you do when you walk into your studio (after turning on the lights)?
I look at what I’m working on from a distance and up close. Take the temperature of the piece. See what’s not working and what is.
What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
Painting Bougainvillea. It’s a great escape, with so much brutality and violence in the world right now.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on an institutional-scale Bougainvillea landscape for my show at the Dallas Contemporary. It’s a 48-foot installation consisting of eight discrete seven-by-eight-foot paintings.
What tool or art supply do you enjoy working with the most, and why?
It depends on my mood. I like slowing down to paint, but I like making big gestures and brush strokes after a few days of painting with a brush. So there’s a top three. One is a paintbrush, two is maybe a paint roller, and three is spray paint or my pressure washer.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Is there anything you like to listen to/watch/read/look at etc. while in the studio for inspiration or as ambient culture?
I like listening to music when I’m making large gestures and marks, or arranging materials on a painting. When I need to get lost in a piece I transport back to adolescent times via ’80s and ’90s music, the good, bad, and the corny. When I’m painting in detail it’s typically quiet or maybe NPR or KCRW is on.
How do you know when an artwork you are working on is clicking? How do you know when an artwork you are working on is a dud?
That’s a great question. You know when you start to see different parts of the piece working and you see it all at once, that click hits. You start to get excited. When it doesn’t do that then I continue to work through it. If nothing feels good about the piece I’ll probably paint over it with a field of color and start over. I use elements from the underpainting though so it wouldn’t be a complete loss. Sometimes for me, this is how it works for many layers of the piece, but all of it is necessary to make the piece successful in my eyes.
What images or objects do you look at while you work? Do you have any other artist’s work in your studio?
I’m always looking at the Los Angeles landscape. So I’m always taking photos of things that interest me on my way to the studio and on my way back home. When I’m stuck on a piece the landscape around me offers a huge break, I just have to pay attention.
What’s the last museum exhibition or gallery show you saw that really affected you and why?
Henry Taylor at the Whitney. I saw the exhibition when it was in town at MOCA LA and I loved it. But when I recently saw the show at the Whitney it brought me closer to the work and I really appreciated the humanity in the portraits. In the Whitney show, the works were installed closer together and for me, it really added something—it made the show feel very warm and impactful. It wasn’t too dense, it was just right. I was also lucky enough to speak about Henry’s work via the Whitney audio guide. I invite visitors to the Whitney to check that out on the museum’s website.
Where do you get your food from, or what do you eat when you get hungry in the studio?
Cruzita’s in Huntington Park. They offer healthy selections that I love. I’m always there!
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.