59th Venice Biennale: Personal Structures
April 18th – November 27th, 2022
Venice Biennial Art Exhibition 2022
Madison Gallery will be exhibiting Donald Martiny at the 59th Venice Biennale, April 23 through November 2022 in partnership with the ECC European Cultural Centre at the Palazzo Bembo.
Art and spirituality have always been intimately connected, not only in the way they address the nature of our existence, but also because of their ability to register deep within us. Together they viscerally connect us to an inner feeling, spirit, or vital essence. This work by Donald Martiny strives for what Kandinsky described as the “vibration of the human soul.”
The painting titled Moment, is by far the most ambitious work Martiny has made to date. The painting is made of multiple elements, its creation demanding over one hundred liters of paint to produce. Working on the floor, the artist moves physically inside, around, and through the varied components of his compositions within the paint, pushing the viscus color across surfaces with his hands, arms, and body. The work is figurative in the sense that dynamic gestures relate to the human form in landscape. Shaped paintings have typically been made through an additive process, by applying paint to predetermined shapes. Martiny’s work challenges that notion. His gestures and completed compositions gain their power through a hybrid subtractive process that determines the final profile of the work. From a formal perspective, his process forces us to question established definitions which define our fundamental understanding of painting.
This installation is possible thanks to the efforts of curator Lorna York and Madison Gallery.
Donald Martiny, born in Schenectady, NY, 1953, currently lives and works in Ivoryton, CT. Studies include School of Visual Arts, The Art Students League of New York, New York University, and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Martiny’s work can be found in the permanent collections of One World Trade Center, NY; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX; Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; FWMoA, Fort Wayne, IN; Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV; Lamborghini Museum, Bologna, Italy; Los Angeles International Airport (LAX); Frost Bank Tower, Fort Worth, TX; Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC. His work also numbers among several prestigious private collections including the Grahm Gund Family Foundation, Cambridge, MA.
Martiny’s work has been featured by Huffington Post, NPR, Philadelphia Inquirer, Architectural Digest Magazine, New American Paintings, Decor Magazine, Hong Kong Tatler, Woven Tale Press, Vogue Living Australia, and Whitehot Magazine.
ECC Publication regarding Personal Structures
• Could you tell us more about the importance as a gallery to participating in Personal Structures – Reflections in Venice?
The opportunity to exhibit in Venice during the 59 th Venice Biennale was very important to us as the world came out of a global pandemic. It was a time to celebrate and really view and see the works that many artists had created during this time. Personal Structures at Palazzo Bembo was a beautiful location along the grand canal with its history and very Venetian grand rooms to display Donald’s work.
• You’ve been working with Donald Martiny for several years now, why was it important to present his work in Venice?
The significance of Donalds gestures and abstraction leaving the boundaries of most art as we know it that requires the boundaries of canvas and stretcher bars. Venice is a place to show innovative artists like Donald to 80,000 viewers. It’s important to us as his gallery that represents him to give him such a large scale platform and international audience.
• Donald Martiny’s installation at Palazzo Bembo is one of his biggest projects to date, could you explain to us the challenges as well as satisfactions as a gallery to present such work?
Donald is known for his large scale installation works. He has two large scale works in One World Trade Center NYC and countless private corporate and personal collections. Donald was not able to make this work on site so the work from his US studio had to be shipped, boated and re- assembled on the second floor of Palazzo Bembo did create challenges.
• Your work in Personal Structures – Reflections strives for what Kandinsky described as the “vibration of the human soul”, could you expand on that?
In my mind what Wassily Kandinsky was talking about when he made that statement was that art comes from deep within us. Children begin to learn to speak and write with simple names of things, e.g., tree, dog, ball. As we mature and become more sophisticated adults we learn to talk about abstract ideas, complex, and subtle feelings. Kandinsky wanted to go further than depicting the image of an object. He needed abstraction to explore visual ways to express, beyond the limits of verbal communication, the vibrations of our soul.
• How important is the gesture in your practice? Could you tell us more about the technical process behind your artworks?
I believe it was the Leipzig artist Hans Hartung who, if not the first was one of the first, to isolate and explored the gesture and mark-making as a complete statement. Mark-making is movement and motion; movement is life. My artworks are made in a way that I can freely make a bold gesture with paint and the gesture defines the form of the artwork. Perhaps a bold analogy would be how poetry was constructed before Walt Whitman, using formal verse with a strict meter and rhyme. Whitman decided to break free of the constrictions of formal verse and used free verse. With my artworks, I decided to move away from the restrictions of predetermined forms, e.g., rectangles, circles, etc., and want the work itself to define the form.
• The installation at Palazzo Bembo is one of your biggest projects to date, could you explain how you came up with the idea?
When I created MOMENT for Palazzo Bembo I was thinking about how to invite the visitor into the work, to immerse the viewer to help them become involved in an active way rather than a passive way with the work. A few references from art history occurred to me. The 13th century Master of Naumburg, placed the crucefix on the floor among the congregation forcing them to confront the crucefixion from the point of view of the Romans who placed Christ on the cross; Tintoretto’s MirMiracle of the slave, in which St. Mark flies above viewers of the painting, involving “us” into the scene; and Caspar David Friedrich’s marvelous painting Monk by the Sea, with his use of the Rückenfigur.
• How does your work relate to the concept of reflections?
Perhaps I already answered that. It is important for me to strive to be inventive and innovative with my work while maintaining a strong connection and dialogue with meaningful art of the past. I see art as an ongoing conversation. To keep it interesting, one must bring new ideas and challenges, but at the same time, we need to remain coherent.