Spotlight: Cuban-Born Artist Enrique Martínez Celaya Conjures Themes of Identity and Longing in a Show of Allusive Recent Works in New York

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About the Artist: Enrique Martínez Celaya is a highly regarded artist, author, and former physicist who has been actively working for three decades. Now based in Los Angeles, the artist was raised between his native Cuba, Spain, and Puerto Rico, and his works are imbued with the twin sensations of longing and disorientation that come from being an outsider. The artist’s recent paintings and drawings are currently in “The Foreigner’s Song,” the artist’s first solo exhibition with Miles McEnery Gallery.   

Why We Like It: Martínez Celaya’s paintings and drawings have the effect of half-remembered dreams or storybooks from childhood. Maps appear in many of the works, hinting at a state of dislocation, loss, and searching. Other times the imagery is more surrealistic. A black and glittering lion appears against an abstracted background in one work titled The Eternal Stain (2022). In another, The Thin Line (2022), a lone figure walks a red path with pastel flowers towering on either side of him, toward what appears to be the twinkling night sky. His works carry an internal complexity, with allusions culled from literature and poetry, philosophy, and science. As the artist draws from his own personal history, he reaches toward questions of identity, memory, and exile, and how these experiences interact with the realms of nature, mythology, and folklore. 

According to the Gallery: “The maps appearing in these paintings by Enrique Martínez Celaya conjure the exoskeleton that a geographical site provides, the shell or shelter supporting life’s vulnerable flesh. These maps, however, also read as the opposite: as internal structures, networks of arteries channeling vital fluids—blood, sap, water. Friction between conditions that seem mutually exclusive—exteriority/interiority, vastness/intimacy, selfhood/otherness—thrums constantly in Martínez Celaya’s work,” writes Leah Ollman in a catalogue essay accompanying the exhibition.

See images from the exhibition below.

Installation view "Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Foreigner’s Song" 2022. Courtesy of Miles McEnery, New York.

Installation view of “Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Foreigner’s Song” (2022). Courtesy of Miles McEnery, New York.

Installation view "Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Foreigner’s Song" 2022. Courtesy of Miles McEnery, New York.

Courtesy: artnet