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Enrique Martínez Celaya. Works on Paper

OAKLAND, CA.-“Several solo shows over the past few years have identified Enrique Martínez Celaya as an artist of formidable intelligence and great poetic capacity.” Leah Ollman, Los Angeles Times. Over the past decade, the prolific Cuban-born painter, sculptor, photographer, poet, and writer Enrique Martínez Celaya has become recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation. His largely figurative works mine the transient world of time and memory, identity and displacement, in images ranging from a body emerging from a murky landscape to a head in silhouette with spots of blood. In Enrique Martínez Celaya. Works on Paper, the Oakland Museum of California presents the first show devoted to this aspect of the artist’s work. Works on Paper continues through March 26, 2006.

Enrique Martínez Celaya is best known for his large paintings and sculpture of startling graphic impact that often focus on isolated body fragments—a head, a hand, an arm. This intimate installation of approximately 20 works on paper reveals an important but little explored aspect of Martínez Celaya’s work, according to Karen Tsujimoto, senior curator of art.

“This exhibition makes clear how key these ‘meditations on paper’ are to the artist: they exist conceptually between his writings and his other visual works,” Tsujimoto explains.

“Collectively seen, they form an evocative visual diary, recording not only Martínez Celaya’s creative intuitions, but his own private pilgrimage toward growth and change.”

Martínez Celaya’s self-described identity as an exile, his Catholic upbringing, and his aptitude for science have played major roles in his life. Born in Cuba in 1964, he was uprooted at age eight to live in Spain. Three years later his family moved to Puerto Rico, where he was apprenticed to a painter. He excelled at science, but his painting helped him understand the turmoil in his world.

Martínez Celaya came to the U.S. in 1982 for graduate studies in applied physics and quantum electronics, and earned degrees at Cornell and UC Berkeley, respectively. On the brink of completing a doctorate in physics, he ultimately chose art, and earned an M.F.A. from University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1994.

Since his first solo exhibition, Black Paintings, at the UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, in 1994, Martínez Celaya has exhibited in Europe, Latin America, and throughout the U.S. His work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Art, Houston. Martínez Celaya has taught at universities in California and throughout the U.S., and published and edited several books of fiction, poetry, science, and philosophy.

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