Tucked away in the folds of San Francisco’s Inner Richmond, there is a space station of sorts that will transport you into a science fiction world of the future. This past Friday, the recently fire-damaged Fecal Face Dot Gallery opened up a temporary new location for its shows. Inside, they are offering two new shows, one of which is the otherworldly “Everything Under the Sun” by Mario Martinez.
Martinez, also known as Mars-1, started out air-brushing T-shirts in Fresno at the age of 14. Eventually, he moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University. There, he continued his art work through the graffiti subculture of the city until his professional career came to life. Still a San Francisco resident, Martinez has been doing solo shows for nine years now, with a forward-looking style that is instantly identifiable.
Martinez’s paintings redefine space. With an explosion of color and form, they present an organized chaos that appears to revolve around an invisible nucleus. In his piece “Nature of Time,” extraterrestrial forms warped by transparent orbs of spacial distortion overlay interwoven patterns and painted textures. Smoothly rendered rainbows surround the formation of enhanced organic shapes in subdued, sunset tones. Filled with life, the image evokes perpetual movement.
“After Glow,” commanding an entire wall at over 12 feet wide and six feet tall, has a similar effect. Glowing on a black background, Martinez uses a diversity of painting techniques to create a conglomeration of oozing matter and textured geometric shapes the complexity of which makes Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” look minimalist. With massive brush strokes sweeping the outer frame, the painting becomes increasingly detailed and three dimensional towards the center, with white outlines resembling robot contour drawings inconspicuously overlaying the entire piece. The grandeur of his large brush strokes together with his expert rendering of detail generate an intensity that evokes the awe of the sublime.
Although comparatively simple, Martinez’s “Infinite Tapestry” maintains an equally uncanny ability to captivate. Painted on a round, black canvas with a six foot diameter, the only subjects in the painting are white dots. Through expert manipulation of size and shape, however, Martinez creates the allusion of movement, like boiling magma bubbling-up beneath the painting. Powerful in its effortlessness, “Infinite Tapestry,” along with the rest of Martinez’s paintings, is one that viewers will most likely find themselves lost in.
Even so, the paintings in “Everything under the Sun” are not the most engrossing pieces in the exhibit. The installation after which the show is named fulfills that characterization. Martinez goes beyond his impressive ability to create three dimensionality in his paintings, with actual three dimensional sculptures and figurines. “Everything Under the Sun” is an extensive assortment of small, multimedia sculptures that make up a Miyazaki-meets-“Star Wars” landscape from another planet. Orbs with geometric growths, heads encapsulated in spherical cages, towers of pyramids, tiny robots and alien organisms are a few of its features and inhabitants. Martinez’s incredible technical precision provides an intricacy that draws in the viewer, inviting them to form a narrative to weave the pieces together.
While maintaining interesting diversity, Martinez manages to also maintain a distinct point of view. Each piece works in dialogue with the others to tell a visual story. This cohesion is what gives his work the capacity to transport viewers to a comprehensive, tightly sealed universe of his own creation — a trip to Mars-1.