Christina Catherine Martinez

  • Alvin Baltrop, The Piers (exterior with couple having sex), 1975–86, gelatin silver print, 2 1⁄2 × 2 1⁄2".

    Alvin Baltrop

    In an interview, gender-queer author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore declared, “If I had to choose one piece of art that has been the most damaging to urban life over the last few decades, I would choose”—wait for it—“Patti Smith’s Just Kids because she facilitates this mythology of New York, that fame is a chain of coincidences that happened because of her great talent.” I was thrilled at Sycamore’s iconoclastic jab. It was part of a larger point she was trying to make about nostalgia as a form of violence.

    Smith had her first art exhibition in 1973, the same year a sixty-foot chunk of the elevated

  • Photograph from one of Empress Elisabeth  of Austria’s photo albums, ca. 1862.

    BEAUTY QUEEN

    I COLLECT WOMEN. The saved tab of my Instagram account contains—in addition to recipes, funny videos I intend to DM to crushes, and nimble axioms on wellness in pastel fonts—images of women, each serving a purpose for the ongoing Frankenstein project that is me: a haircut I want to get, an outfit I want to buy, a body I want to emulate. Sisi did the same, albeit without the algorithms that permit us to assemble our little archives in relative seclusion. “I am creating a beauty album,” she wrote to her brother-in-law in 1862, “and am now collecting photographs for it, only of women. Any pretty

  • Gracie DeVito, Machiavelli Heart Break, 2019, oil on cotton, 15 1⁄2 × 14 1⁄4".

    Gracie DeVito

    A long time ago, I saw a video of Gracie DeVito worming out of a hole in a wall. The act was simple, and even under the aegis of performance art (it was a gallery wall), it made the crossed-armed spectators break into smiles and giggles. I had yet to become a performer myself and failed at the time to fully appreciate how much of a feat simplicity can be.

    Paintings can be experienced as performances. Critics have an impulse to slow them down to dissect their operations, but if we’d just let them happen once in a while, we might better understand what they do. The art historian Michael Baxandall

  • A Covid-19 announcement on the California highway. Photos: Christina Catherine Martinez.
    diary June 10, 2020

    Signs Are Everywhere

    BEFORE ANYONE GOT STARVED ENOUGH to sneak out for a fuck or a socially distanced porch hang, we took drives. On a recent Saturday, I visited the Westside edition of “Drive-By-Art,” an outdoor exhibition billed as “public art in this moment of social distancing” and organized by Warren Neidich, Renee Petropoulos, Michael Slenske, and Anuradha Vikram. On the way, I passed through Silver Lake and Echo Park, where a number of Artemisa Clark’s replicas of posters from New York in 1987—when Carl Andre was on trial for second-degree murder of his wife, Ana Mendieta—remained stapled to telephone poles

  • View of “Xochitla,” 2020. Photo: Matthew Farrar.
    picks April 15, 2020

    Anabel Juarez

    A few days before Governor Newsom locked down California, I pulled the top down on my little red coupe and drove to Santa Monica to visit Anabel Juarez’s larger-than-life ceramics. By then, proprietor Emma Gray was half-facetiously promoting the show by referencing the open-air setting of Five Car Garage, which is indeed housed in a roomy garage that welcomes rays from the sun-bleached alley.

    The outdoor-ish venue is particularly suited for Juarez’s exhibition “Xochitla,” whose title broadly translates as “place for flowers.” The show, a collaboration with Lefebvre & Fils in Paris, is populated

  • Liz Glynn, Affirmative Consent, 2019, figurative element: enamel, bronze, 30 × 48 × 45".

    Liz Glynn

    On the heels of her sprawling, multisensory “sculptural experience” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, “The Archaeology of Another Possible Future” (2017–19), Liz Glynn’s first exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles, intriguingly titled “Emotional Capital,” represented a shift in perspective: The earlier exhibition was populated with site-specific interactive sculptures in monumental materials, such as forklift pallets and shipping containers, that constituted a meditation on postindustrialization. Here, the twenty-two prints and sculptures dotting the gallery suggested less a coherent

  • Entrance to QiPO Fair 02. All photos: Christina Catherine Martinez.
    diary February 19, 2020

    Friend Zona

    “IS SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENING in Mexico City this week?” Rachel Kushner asked. I introduced myself to her during Laura Owens’s opening at House of Gaga, a day before Material and Zona Maco began. Kushner, in town to support her friend, was somewhat surprised to be running into so many other Angelenos. Owens’s dreamy abstractions, atypically small, hung well in the modest gallery—paintings and watercolors the size you’d hang in a breakfast nook, set off by custom wallpapers bearing cartoonish lemons and stripes in rogue geometries. A tiny rat in a hat and coat was painted in the corner. “It’s

  • Haena Yoo, The Birth of Venus (detail), 2019, mixed media, 33 1⁄2 × 80 × 14 1⁄4".

    Erin Calla Watson and Haena Yoo

    A tiny sculpture, resembling both an amulet and a mini crucifix, contained an image of a dog’s mutilated body, laser-etched into a heart-shaped hunk of dark crystal—the kind you might find at a Mexican five-and-dime around Valentine’s Day. The stone was attached to a rough-hewn pewter cast of a tongue depressor. Similarly crafted objects nearby depicted a nude woman holding her hand out to a dog and a row of bikini-clad models waiting to jump off a diving board.

    These and other enigmatic works by Erin Calla Watson were on view in her two-person exhibition with Haena Yoo at As It Stands. Watson’s

  • Alma Allen, Not Yet Titled, 2019, walnut, 23 × 44 1⁄4 × 40 1⁄2".

    Alma Allen

    Cast and carved from sober materials such as marble, wood, and bronze, the deceptively lissome sculptures of Alma Allen contain more than one crack at the idea of truth in materials. In press and press releases alike, Allen is insistently compared to Constantin Brancusi, who nudged modernism forward with his own quest to manifest the essence of natural forms through direct engagement with his materials. (It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the essence of a bird, rendered from a single plane of bronze, don’t you see?) Allen, whose work has been shaped by the sun-bleached vistas of Joshua Tree,

  • Tom Allen, Mirrors (South of Heaven), 2019, oil on canvas, 23 × 27".

    Tom Allen

    There’s something about artifice that gets people so up the ass of their own virtue that even nature can be accused of looking fake—especially when it’s convenient for the hegemony. So it’s no surprise, then, that flowers, nature’s most tarted-up characters, are almost pathologically feminized. Baudelaire articulated the shitty double bind between flowers and women quite poetically in the section of his seminal 1863 essay “The Painter of Modern Life” titled “In Praise of Cosmetics”: “Woman is quite within her rights, indeed she is even accomplishing a kind of duty, when she devotes herself to

  • Jessica Emmanuel performing as Narcissister in The Face (Performing Male Facial Features), Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles, September 21, 2019. Photo: Christina Catherine Martinez.
    diary September 26, 2019

    Desperately Seeking Sublimation

    I CAME TOO EARLY.

    Sex, like going out, carries the risk of the anticipation being a more visceral experience than consummation. Art is supposed to save us from this sad gambit, but when you mix all three—as at the opening of the Pornhub-sponsored exhibition “The Pleasure Principle” at Maccarone in Boyle Heights—you may end up sitting in your car for twenty minutes, wearing a strapless top that smooshes your boobs, waiting for the place to fill up, trying to feel the vibe.

    I had a sexting appointment with Karen Finley, one of the original NEA Four, as part of her Sext Me If You Can performance,

  • STERLING RUBY

    Curated by Alex Gartenfeld and Eva Respini

    This fall’s hottest collab is Sterling Ruby’s first comprehensive museum survey, co-organized by ICA Boston and ICA Miami. The exhibition—which includes more than fifty paintings, collages, ceramics, and large-scale sculptures spanning 2003 to the present—highlights the range of his material experimentation. In the accompanying catalogue, essays by curators Alex Gartenfeld and Eva Respini and, in particular, an interview with the artist by critic and Texte zur Kunst editor Isabelle Graw grapple with the implications of Ruby’s ever-expanding studio: from