Catapulting his message across a palette of different surfaces, Steve Martinez muses on the relationships linking all that surrounds us. Inserting himself deep into the human narrative that defines urbanity, he prods and observes. These reflections are later translated into a mix of graphic and fine arts, as literal as they are abstract. His creations aim to define society in its flashes of glory, as well as its ills. All this comes from the perspective of an individual with a firm cultural perspective, honed in the golden gridlock of modern-day Los Angeles.
Just by looking at his online portfolio, it is not evident which of Martinez’s pieces are large-scale and which are smaller, but there lies their uncanny appeal, the wordless magnitude of his work. The graphic design background definitely comes into play, with layering techniques adding to a optically refreshing use of dimension and space.
The subject is often framed, drawing the eye into the heart of the collage-like experience that defines so many of Martinez’ pieces. We don’t know whether each scene belongs on a wall, screen, or the pages of a book. There’s a fluidity in Martinez’s artwork that gives it a clear sense of reality. Accesible yet untouchable, it is a commentary on people, for people, that touches on all the peculiarities between observation and conscience.
To specify the content of Martinez’s work would be to generalize it. His “South Central,” for example, speaks towards the manifestation of the Angeleno that makes the neighborhood and the neighborhood that makes the Angeleno. In another image we get John Lennon, in profile, under a red hot moon and a felt fedora; there’s something unsettling about his presence there, with everything askew but his quiet smile.
Martinez’s symbolism becomes not only highly interpretive, but also a representation of the humanity of the viewer themselves. It’s easy to see how crucial a role Martinez plays in UGLAR Works, the Los Angeles creative cooperative made up of Espi, Ryan Gattis, Evan Skredertsu, and Christopher D. Brand. Together, they form a cultural narrative built on notable influences but independent of other urban art movements. Martinez’s own narrative is a product of collaboration and personal exploration; twin forces, forming the balance between the inevitable confidence and doubt living inside the heart of an artist.
Steve Martinez is a multi-medium, multi-cultural creator, catching the nuances of urban living as well as those of the human mystique. His work belongs on pages that you can hold in your hand and absorb, crease by crease as much as it does on vacant walls watching our lives go on by.