At the latest exhibition at the USC Fisher Museum of Art, you can experience all the elements at once – not physically, but visually.
Entitled “SEA SKY LAND: Towards a Map of Everything”, the exhibition features approximately 30 large format paintings and sculptures created by Enrique Martínez Celaya between 2005 and 2020.
According to the exhibit’s official press release, the exhibit is the first time Martínez Celaya’s “arc” of practice will be featured in a Southern California museum since 2001.
Selma Holo, executive director emeritus of USC Museums, was originally connected to Martínez Celaya through a friend and colleague. After visiting his studio, she knew she wanted to exhibit her work at the Fisher Museum. Holo also knew that with her retirement slated for a few years, she wanted this show to be her legacy.
Visually, the work captures attention. With rooms 20 or 30 feet tall, it is extremely easy to walk around the museum and lose yourself in the grandeur of the atmosphere. All of the works presented at the Fisher Museum are linked to one of the three motifs – sea, sky and earth.
Martínez Celaya’s careful use of color and poignant messages stand out as one walks through the gallery, moving through the elements. Each section of the exhibit has been designed to pair with the others, and while one might find a favorite painting, each has been designed to be able to pierce its audience in a unique way.
Holo said she was drawn to Martínez Celaya specifically because she “wanted to do something that was really iconic for USC”. For her, this meant honoring the extreme interest in interdisciplinary work at the University, embodied by the scientist-artist-professor journey of Martínez Celaya.
“When you are an artist, who also questions the world from the position of science, poetry, literature and all the emotions that fill us as human beings, you [are] someone who I think can touch you in a very special way,” Holo said.
Nathalia Morales-Evanks, director of communications and marketing for USC’s museums, said promoting Martínez Celaya has been “easy” because it’s featured across the city right now, such as at the Huntington Library, the San Marino Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. , California, and the UTA artist space.
Martínez Celaya’s work will also be featured in a concurrent exhibition at the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. The exhibition builds on his recent residency at the Robinson Jeffers Tor House in Carmel, California, after being named an inaugural member of the foundation, and will showcase his work alongside historical material from the 20th-century poet.
Holo said she also wanted to present Martínez Celaya’s work as a representation of USC – a “big mosaic made up of so many different people with different backgrounds”. Martínez Celaya, who is Cuban, left Cuba at a young age and was educated in Spain and Puerto Rico before moving to various locations in the United States. Many of Martínez Celaya’s pieces involve the idea of looking for a home or a sense of belonging. In Holo’s essay in the catalog for this exhibition, she calls her work a representation of “exilic imagination.”
“Pamper yourself… Let the work work on you. You’ll find yourself touched in a way that the modern world doesn’t allow us to be…Artists give us permission to look at the world with freshness,” Holo said.
“Enrique Martínez Celaya, SEA SKY LAND: Towards a Map of Everything” will be presented at the Fisher Museum until April 9. Entries and programs are free and open to the public.
“You could come any day, until April 9, and see something different,” Morales-Evanks said.