Celebrating Connection and Togetherness, Gabriel Martinez’s Exhibit Comes to a Close

Untitled, detail, 2019, found fabric, 50 x 46 in

IN SEPTEMBER, WHEN vaccinated art-lovers were ready to mask up and hit the scene, Houston's galleries came back with a vengeance. Not surprisingly, many of the artists chosen to ring in the city's fall art season maintain their practice in Houston, and the range and quality of talent on display is almost overwhelming.

One of the most celebrated exhibits has been Gabriel Martinez's Desire Lines, which closes with a special meet-the-artist event at Anya Tish Gallery on Oct. 16 from 2-4pm. It's a must-see for anyone interested in art that blurs the lines between mediums and is infused with a social conscience.

Taken from a distance, what might appear to the viewer as paintings are actually large, hand-stitched assemblages of quilted fabrics, the materials gathered from the streets of Houston by Martinez during the worst months of the pandemic.

Like several other notable Houston artists — Robert Hodge and Felipe Lopez come to mind — Martinez reuses materials not just to create a visually pleasing piece of art, but to prompt viewers to consider the human and environmental cost of so-called "fast fashion," as well as our interconnectedness on both a local and global level. Interestingly, the shapes, patterns and occasional humorous minutiae in Martinez's quilts are reminiscent of maps, albeit those of an ancient culture, like the "songlines" of Aboriginal Australians.

Taking the concept of interconnectedness further, Martinez is asking gallery visitors to contribute to a wall drawing titled Cumulus by writing, in pencil, the countries named on the tags of whatever clothes they happen to be wearing. So in order to participate, you might have to ask another visitor to look down the back of your shirt. Sort of like shaking hands with your neighbor, something we all have been missing.

Untitled, 2019, found fabric, 35.25 x 30.5 in

Untitled, 2019, found fabric, 72 x 54 in

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