The Art of Fred Martin
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Fred Martin
A Retrospective, 1948-2003
Catalog illustrations with commentaries...

 Catalog nos. 30-54

Click for
Catalog nos. 1-26.
Catalog nos. 55-63
Catalog nos. 65-77
Catalog nos. 78-115
Catalog nos. 119-137
 


 

Cat. no. 30.  #18, Harvest on the Mt. Veeder Road,  September 16, 1967. 
Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 92 in.  Collection Oakland Museum of California.
I had been painting the Carpenter paintings for about a year when I took forty or fifty of them to show to my then New York art dealer.  He did not like them; and on the plane on the way home, I read in Darby Bannard’s The New Art something like “the glory of American painting is its majestic size.”  When I got home, I rearranged my small studio to paint majestic size.  If size made the big boys glorious, maybe it would do it for me.  I began to paint the 24 x 36 inch Carpenters as repeats all over 66 x 92 inch canvases.  Then I saw the quinces ripening on a tree in our backyard, and I went back to Beulah Land—but as large as “the glory of American painting.”  One late summer afternoon, I went looking for an artist I knew who had moved to Mount Veeder Road somewhere near the Napa Valley.  I did not find him, but came home and painted Cat. no. 30 as the result.

 

 

Cat. no. 31  #25, Large Corn Sheller Wheel,  January 5, 1968. 
Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 92 in.
I found a curious object in a junk store in Sonoma County.  It was a tool with a toothed wheel to tear the kernels from corn cobs to make cattle feed.  I had made images of corncobs loaded with corn as phallic symbols of fertility; and in this wheel I found the image of all the pain of family life.  I made many drawings of the “corn sheller,” and then made this big painting of its toothed wheel as an object hung on an A-frame in a barn for everyone to see.  I carved the top of the frame with a heart for love and pounded into it a nail for the husband and another for the wife… nails forever inextricable in the wood of the A frame of the family tree that holds the wheel of life in the barn of the Western Homestead in eternity.  And as for the shining medallion at the center of the necklace in eternity, there’s no great beauty without fear and no great love without pain.

 

 

Cat. no. 32.  #54, Johnny America Still Life,  November 9-11, 1968. 
Acrylic on canvas, approx 66 x 92 in. 
Collection Oakland Museum of California.
I had made many big paintings to make me glorious, but I began to feel that the imagery was too fixed—like the melody of a folk song instead of the complex variability of a symphonic theme.  One summer afternoon in 1968, I saw what seemed to be a half nude man coming up out of Lake Merritt.  High cirrus clouds were curling in the sky above his head.  That night I decided whenever a form in my big paintings started to close like a folk melody I would break it with another form only that form would be broken in turn.  Out of that streaming of broken forms—the “primary process” speaking from the unconscious—I would then use all my art-craft to make a whole out of parts.  Looking back, the man coming out of the lake was my “primary process” saying “LOOK AT ME,” and the curling cirrus in the sky was the streaming of my art to come.

 

 

 

Cat. no. 40.  From Dust of Paradise Harvest, The Well Tempered Spectrum: Violet.  1970.
Pastel and acrylic on Masonite, 48 x 24 in.
Collection Oakland Museum of California.
In the summer of 1970, I had been using acrylic for four years and had yet to find a way to develop color like a composer might orchestrate a symphony from a piano score.  (The symphonic was then my visual ideal.)  After the 106th  acrylic of “majestic” size (cat. no. 48 in this show), I got real about scale—smaller—and switched to colored sticks of soft pastel so I could hold a rainbow in my hand.   I kept on with the streaming lines of the big acrylic paintings, but I filled the spaces between with the soft pastels. I called the new work The Dust of Paradise Harvest, and I made a Well-Tempered Spectrum (remembering Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier)This Violet is the last of the spectrum series.  The whole series showed the mountains of paradise, the heart from the Western Homestead, and the winged sword of my masculinity—all in the streaming of colors of the waters of life.

 

Cat. no. 41.  Afghanistan.  1971.
Pastel on Masonite, 18 x 18 in.
Late in 1970 I learned I was to receive an NEA grant for any purpose of my choice.  I had been reading Mortimer Wheeler’s Splendors of the East and chose to see the places in the book by traveling around the world.  I was making work in the manner of the streaming of the late-summer 1970 Dust of Paradise Harvest series, but by winter that year I had begun to make images of specific places of my imagination, like this Afghanistan, which came from reading of the Kingdom of Prester John,  the mythical history of Alexander and the gates they said Alexander made to save the West from the violent tribes of Gog and Magog.  My trip around the world in the spring of 1971 began before I had finished this painting.  I was proud that I was able to complete the painting when I came back six weeks later. 

 

 

Cat. no. 45.  #83, September 7, 1969.
Acrylic on canvas, approx. 92 x 66 in.
The necklace in eternity and the mountains beyond the far horizon are eternal time and infinite space.  But I was painting in our finite world of passing time.  The ancient Iranians had a god, Zurvan, the god of “the time of long duration” and of the vast and time swept deserts of Iran.  The Gnostic god of time was Aion.  He had the head of a lion because time eats everything.  He had wings because time goes everywhere. He was wound with a snake carved with sun, moon, and the five planets for time’s fatality.  What has that to do with this painting?  I was imagining the plains and mountains of Central Asia and the old old land of Zurvan with Aion ravaging through its ruins.  And I saw there a golden tree with singing birds that was my love for my wife and our lives together in time.  Stones from the broken necklace are everywhere if we can see their shining.

 

 

Cat. no. 54.  My Hands in the Sun.  1971.
Oil on Masonite, 18 x 18 in.
I made slides on the trip around the world because I did not think I could paint while traveling—in the 1980’s, I learned I could (see cat. nos. 124-128).  I did not know how to use the slides when I got back, but I was sure I had to quit the “streaming” pastels of before the trip.  I went to oil in order to show as clearly as possible what most mattered to me.  The first of the “matters most” was a painting of some poppies growing in a cracked sidewalk just down from our house (cat. no. 51).  And then I began to make my body—my torso better built than I was (cat. no. 52), my solar plexus with a tattoo that I do not have of a sunrise heart (cat. no. 53), and then my hands raised in the sun.  The hands wear the ring I still wear.  I made the ring into a golden mandala with four small diamonds when I married Stephanie Dudek thirty years after this painting was made.

 

 

   

Click for
Catalog nos. 1-26.
Catalog nos. 30-54
Catalog nos. 55-63
Catalog nos. 65-77
Catalog nos. 78-115
Catalog nos. 119-137