Born in 1923 in Barranquilla, Colombia to an American father and Colombian mother, New York painter Knox Martin is widely recognized for his lively, vibrant paintings that employ a distinct visual vocabulary of signs and symbols, often referencing nature and more specifically, the female form. With their large shapes, brilliant flatly painted colors, and complex structure, Martin’s works are immediately recognizable for their free execution and pop sensibility.
Having grown up in New York City, across from the Hispanic Society of America on 155th Street, Martin became fascinated and inspired by the works of Goya, often drawing works of the Spanish master. After serving in World War II, Martin attended the Art Students League of New York on the G.I. Bill, where he studied with Vaclav Vytlacil, Will Barnet, and Morris Kantor. It was here that Martin would develop a mature style marked by impeccable draftsmanship, a unique palate and simple shapes in complex compositions, which he would continue to refine throughout his long career.
Martin’s professional career took off in 1954, when Franz Kline selected a painting of his for inclusion in the Stable Gallery Annual. Dealer Charles Egan took note of Martin’s painting at the Stable Gallery and invited the artist to produce a one-man exhibition for the 10th anniversary of his eponymous gallery. Reviewing the show at the Charles Egan Gallery for the New York Times in 1954, Stuart Preston wrote: “It is in his ecstatic pen and brush drawings of women that Martin shows himself to be a draftsman of exceptional power and assurance; some are hastily done, but even the most lively scribbles throb with a particular intensity, both visual and sensational, that causes one to remember that Spanish warmth counts a lot for him, and that the blood of Goya is in his veins.”
Throughout his career Martin has enjoyed praise from critics and collectors alike. His works have been placed in over 40 important museum collections in the US and internationally. In addition, the playful nature of his paintings has been translated into numerous large-scale mural commissions. In his latest series of works Martin’s bold use of black and white evokes de Kooning’s iconic black and white paintings. Martin’s works, whose titles allude to the female form, are integrated with highlights of pop colors underscoring their inherent vigorous spirit.
Knox Martin will have a two-person show at Todd Merrill Studio in the Spring of 2017.
© Knox Martin/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
“Knox Martin in studio, 2013,” Photograph by Ronald Lusk