To live in an urban center is to see things come and go. While preservationists valiantly seek to hold on to some significant shred of the past, the landscape is in a continual state of change. Be it the corner grocer, a favorite hole in the wall diner or the barbershop at which you got your first haircut, very little in commercial real estate – and the reflection of local culture it carries – is static. We celebrate 25th anniversaries of notable spots because of the rarity of hitting that mark. Life in the big city is fickle.

Enter Patrick Martinez to make visual poetry with our collective street smarts. In an elegant assembly of major paintings by the 38-year-old Angeleno, the notion of layered, invisible histories within architectural facades is explored with a poignancy too wise to pamphleteer us with tired slogans when his peeled-back surfaces suffice to tug at love and loss down the side streets of inadequate commerce. Entitled “Remembering To Forget”, this show is a rhapsodic ode to loss deeper in the barrio than contemporary art usually goes.

The exhibit’s major work is a thirteen-foot long, eight-foot tall recreation of a commercial exterior as a painterly time-lapse. The title alone, “Fallen Empire” is a feat of conceptual dignity hanging over the chasm of failure. A pink building with an exterior green tile wainscot is seen in various stages of triumph and disrepair. Albert Einstein insisted that time exists so that everything doesn’t happen at once. Martinez slyly plays that notion on its head in this picture as well as most others in the show. Many tiles are missing, their spray-painted passages blocking out other painted parts on this building. History is vertical clutter here. A banner serves as signage for the establishment that is/was here. A partial name reads AZTEC and contains an address. Speckled about the piece are ceramic flowers. The Aztec empire is fallen. How many businesses here have fallen? Do the roses memorialize a fallen neighbor?

Other works continuing the pretext of urban walls memorialize victims of police violence with mural-like realistic rendering amidst blotted paint passages. The trademark flowers are here in these pictures too, meaning and aesthetics entwined as adornment. In other paintings, Martinez plugs in neon roses amidst the street banners and plasterings to continue a lyrical trope.

No Millenial artist can do a show entirely comprised of wistful masterpieces it seems, and the acquiescence to online meme-parroting rears its glowing head in the gallery’s basement. Don there hang a wall’s worth of neon signs fabricated in the same manner that would suffice in the windows and on the walls of any of the establishments Martinez alludes to. With all the wit of a tweet, here we get some “cool slogans” glowing in cool light. More people will see these on the gallery’s Instagram posts than in person. While timely for ten seconds in the current political climate, and in lieu of being the art object equivalent of an online carnival barker, they just seem to detract from the sublime accomplishments in paint and plaster upstairs.

This is Patrick Martinez’s second solo show with the Charlie James Gallery in Chinatown, Los Angeles. The gallery opening is set for September 8, 2018 and is titled “Remembering to Forget.” The Charlie James Gallery is located at 969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Mat Gleason

Author: Mat Gleason

Founder of the highly controversial Coagula Art Journal (the “National Enquirer of the Art World” as the New York Observer called it), Mat Gleason is an internationally recognized art critic and curator of contemporary art. The New York Times described him as a “famously provocative Los Angeles art critic,” while the L.A. Weekly once referred to him as a “cranky, self-exiled gossipmonger.”