1979-1994: Chris Martin

November 7 - December 21, 2019

Take the L train to Grand Street and walk a few blocks over to Graham Avenue. Head to the building with a vacant looking green storefront, and enter the magic that is Chris Martin’s studio. Occupying the space since 1984, it is an institution of history, of paint, of making. Glitter and paint are caked into his floor. Eight foot paintings smothered in ceiling tar are stored among massive Griffins on tin foil, alongside some of his first ten-foot drop cloth paintings, which were inspired by seeing Hilma af Klint’s work at PS1 in 1989. But if you’re truly lucky, you might get a peek into the cellar. There are the hidden gems–important, formative works from his early years in the space: small, gnarly paintings made of thickly caked paint on burly, handmade stretchers. Known predominantly during these years for working on a massive scale, Martin was simultaneously and very seriously developing a body of small paintings. The core of these works represent a deeply important period in the artist’s life: many of the subjects touched upon reappear in paintings throughout the decades that he has been working since. Nods to Jungian psychology, psychedelics, the Catskills landscape, and fatherhood; all united by Martin’s desire to show that painting is powerful, magical, and transcendental.


Martin’s exhibition on the gallery’s third floor will present these historic works bookended by the years 1979 and 1994; the majority of them created during this formative 1980s period. An exhibition in March 2019 in Los Angeles featured large paintings from this era; here we will present an intimate display of some key smaller paintings.


Chris Martin (b. 1954, Washington D.C.) is an American painter who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work is included in the collections of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the High Museum, Atlanta; the MCA Chicago; and the SF MoMA, San Francisco, among others. Recent solo exhibitions include The Eighties, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); Anton Kern Gallery, New York (2018); and Chris Martin – Paris TAZ, VNH Gallery, Paris, France (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Sonia Gomes and Chris Martin, organized by VNH Gallery and Mendes Wood DM, Château de Fernelmont, Fernelmont, Belgium; Vanquishing Ocular, curated by David Salle and Nicole Wittenberg, Rental Gallery, East Hampton; and Downtown Painting Presented by Alex Katz, Peter Freeman, New York (all 2019).

Installation Views