Review of Enrique Martínez Celaya


In “Jumping off the cliff with hands in the air,” art critic Elvia Rosa Castro (Cuban Art News) begins with a line from a Zen koan as her title and starting point to reflect on the art of Enrique Martínez Celaya. Born in Cuba, Martínez Celaya grew up in Spain and Puerto Rico. [Shown above: Enrique Martínez Celaya, The Bloom for the Wilderness, 2015, Jack Shainman Gallery.]

The Jack Shainman Gallery is one of the most multicultural, multiethnic, and inclusive galleries I know. Among the artists represented there are Nick Cave (USA), El Anatsui (Ghana-Nigeria), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (London), as well the Cubans Yoan Capote and Enrique Martínez Celaya. In 2015, Enrique Martínez Celaya opened Empires: Sea & Empires: Land, his first solo show at the Shainman Gallery. The exhibition included impressive installations and large-format paintings.

Sea-Land, Land-Sea is a children’s game that consists in jumping from one “empire” to the other (or remaining in the same place) when one player calls a command to jump. This shuffling about between sea and land, from the unfathomable to the finite, from certitude to the mysterious, is found in all of Martínez Celaya’s work as a metaphysical treatise on human existence.

Martínez Celaya was born in 1964, 90 kilometers from Havana, but grew up in Spain and Puerto Rico and has lived in various US cities. There, he wrote me, he first became aware of “the past as a depository of hopes and dreams, as well as the inevitability of unrealized aspirations.”

The painting The Prodigal Son and the installation El caminante / The Traveler are works [. . .] that contain two elements seen in all of Celaya’s artistic trajectory: the house—always drawn with the same architectural design—and the suitcase, the stay and the voyage. The nomadic stay as substance of his and our lives. The temporary home, the house that flies away. [. . .]

For full review, see

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