In the 1950s, artists like Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline elevated the gesture to the position of the protagonist in abstract expressionism. In the 21st century, Donald Martiny advances that idea considerably further by freeing the gesture of gestural abstraction from the substrate which, heretofore, provided the context that brought gesture to life. Working with polymers and dispersed pigments, Mr. Martiny has developed a methodology that enables him to isolate his sumptuous, almost sculptural, brushstrokes and lift them off the page, so to speak. The nature of his material is such that Mr. Martiny can work in a much larger scale than if he were dependent on a canvas surface; indeed, each singular brushstroke might range from two- to as much as six-feet in length. Installed, these compelling monochromatic gestures immediately breathe a new kind of life into the gallery space.
Historically, Mr. Martiny’s work to date fits right into the continuum of monochromatic painting, a contemporary reductive movement which has advanced the concerns and broadened the interests of the classic Minimalists of the 1960s and of the much earlier Suprematists, who openly sought the ‘death of painting” with their monochromatic efforts. Mr. Martiny, belongs to a family of painters which includes such luminaries as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Frank Stella, and Olivier Mossett. Quite amazingly, each of these distinguished artists brought something noticeably different to this admittedly singular and restrictive approach to painting. Prior to Mr. Martiny, though, each of these other great painters relied on manipulating the relationship between canvas and pigment to achieve subtle, nuanced differences in each painting. Mr. Martiny has greatly expanded the painterly agenda by taking the brushstroke completely off the canvas entirely. I applaud his commitment to furthering the monochromatic agenda and his ability to make fresh, new work that acknowledges, rather than negates, decades of previous good work. Rather than hastening the death of painting as Rodchenko forecast, monochromatic painting has already enjoyed a long life line and, in the hands of Donald Martiny, is clearly alive and well.
Charles A. Shepard III
President and CEO
Fort Wayne Museum of Art