Ryan Patrick Martin admits to me that before college in New York City, still living in his native Lancaster Pennsylvania, he converted his parents’ basement into “the Fuzz Cave. A lot of experimenting happened there.” That’s probably a good place to start. 

There’s a pretty large consensus when it comes to a lot of art being made today. “Contemporary art hates you.” This quote comes from the master of tomfoolery, Mister John Waters. And like all great things Waters —and modern art in general— there’s a large deal of satire wrapped behind a curtain of existentialism. Today things rarely are as they seem. Martin makes an art of stuff, things that are behind appearance. He bridges a gap between painting and sculpture, as well as other related media. If he can put his hands on it, he can make with it. Needless to say he makes some pretty weird things. The work at its core is about play. He creates rules for some new game he wants to play, tracing paths he already knows the answers to. Pictorializing his choices establishes the composition. He’s the master of his own foolery. The work is never tedious and always impish. It’s part Pee-wee’s Playhouse and part Richard Tuttle.

“I made the maze, I know the answer, but I still want to play.” Answers rarely ever are what one wants them to be. Accidents happen, the result is not chance. Martin chuckles a lot when talking about his work; there’s a lot of joyous curiosity and touching. Surfaces and mediums converge, often juxtaposing. Other times they don’t. Things sit in his studio perched in curious little self-made shelves. They almost squawk, his bright colors and oblong forms. Maybe one day they’ll be placed on a coffee table— someone will ash a cigarette nearby. It will look so good! All these little parts, interconnected to a curious construction of other little parts. Lumps sculpted upon chunks and all the while he seems to be filled with so much inquisitive creative steam. If we’re very lucky, he won’t ever stop. “Keep making work, you’ll be pushed to show it.” Martin shares encouraging words a mentor once told him. It’s reflected in his work.

Martin traces out strange little environments, the hand is always present in the works atmosphere. They are synthetic and bizarrely cellular. Big and small at the same time it’s like looking through a microscope, or zooming out – way out – becoming cosmic. His works are distinct from the earth, but there’s a slim possibility that if you planted them, from the soil something would grow. They are lyrical, not ever perfect, maybe even sometimes assembled from trash. There’s a loving violence about them, and the work’s thick layers heal over the savagery. The queer jumble of iconography and reoccurring motif’s behold an offbeat semiotics. Simply put, the things are unusual as hell! Their intrigue feeds a sort of newness and innocence. 

Martin is unaccountably human, innately so is the work he makes.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell is an artist who lives in New York. For more of his work click here …

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