Photo by Seth Combs
In this semi-regular department, Seth Combs reviews a notable new art show or exhibition.
It seems strange to call May-ling Martinez a mid-career artist. However, given that term’s arbitrary parameters, I do feel comfortable saying that I at least consider the sculptor and paper artist to be hitting something of a creative plateau.
This is evident in her new self-titled show at Ice Gallery. While other artists come and go, Martinez has stuck it out in San Diego and has showcased her work in nearly every major gallery in town. I first saw her work back in 2009 at the Luis de Jesus gallery, Seminal Projects. The fan-based sculptures in that particular show (titled Measured Resistance) were much more whimsical than what I’ve come to expect from Martinez these days, but one could see the promise in pieces such as “Learning Device” and “Measured Resistance (Inflated/Collapsed).”
For her new show, Martinez used the space as a studio in which, as she puts it, “layers of information collide and overlap in the space in a stream of consciousness.” Illustrated waves are layered through imagery culled from “how-to” books taking up an entire wall of the gallery. On the adjacent side of the space, there is a table with meticulously placed scientific tools and found objects on, above and around the table. It could come across as overwhelmingly OCD; a methodology within the madness that comes with the step-by-step process of the scientific method.
When the table piece is combined with the more surrealistic nature of the wall piece, it’s as if the viewer is seeing two sides of the artistic brain. The part which relies on habits and learned behaviors in order to plan and proceed, as well as the more istinctive and guttural side that would like to see nothing more than for it to all burn to the ground. There’s also a stack of storage boxes that nearly reaches to the ceiling. To be honest, I found that addition to be a bit superfluous, but it didn’t detract from a show that managed to be both hasty and charming. Moreover, it only went to further solidify Martinez’s place as one of the best artists San Diego has to offer. Please don’t take her away.