Street art came in from the heat some time ago, and whether the work is being shown in a gallery or a back alley is now almost beside the point. But what happens when an artist goes beyond recreating a piece and brings in the street itself? Well, then you've got a whole new twist. That's the gist of Jel Martinez's "Removal," which opens at Butter on Saturday night. Niteside got with the veteran visualist on the eve of his changing the way we see.
Give us the quick lowdown on "Removal." "Removal" is my first solo exhibition. It consists of eight new paintings that are inspired by the Buffs that surround me in the streets of Miami.
For those who aren't in the game, what are Buffs? Buffs are Removals. The city removes graffiti, matching the closest color of the wall. When a wall is "vandalized," it is buffed by rollers or brushes. These buffs are created subconsciously in our environment and go unnoticed by the general public.
There are four styles that emerge: the symmetrical, which is basically a rectangle; blur, which is when the remover uses a solvent spray to soften the graffiti and blurs it somewhat out; radical, which is a style that looks like an up and down zig-zag from side to side; and ghosting, which is when the vandal does a throw up [bubble lettered tag] and the city only erases the lines of the general form, giving it a ghost look. These styles of removal are all born naturally between the vandal and the city employee. Subconscious art of vandal removal.
I feel that the the city removes one art form while creating another.
Could this be described as capturing the beautiful wounds of a wall after it's been assaulted? Yes, but I must admit that the beauty for me is the entire process, from the wall, which is usually weathered, to the writing that has color and style, and the removal, which has the simplicity and character.
Do the works replicate actual sites, or do they represent what you remember (and/or maybe envisioned)? Some of my paintings are replicas to a certain degree. I can like a style of a buff but may not like the color, so I alter it. Other paintings have parts of walls that have caught my eye, such as peels, rust textures or mold which I recreate from photos I have taken in the past. The paintings don't represent an actual location but rather a place in society that I am a part of.
When were you first struck by the power of this unplanned and uncharted imagery? The thoughts are stored in my memory since the '90s when I was mostly doing illegal pieces in the streets. The city would buff my pieces and leave these images stored in my mind.
Back then you ran with the Inkheads. Who were they and what were they all about? The Inkheads are all about being fresh! Having style with simple aesthetic, but it all comes naturally 'cause our heads are filled with ink. LOL
You still tight with the crew? We still talk from time to time, but we are all grown up now. Everyone is doing their thing and keeping it funky.
Do you still sometimes slip out after dark with a backpack of spray paint and rework another wall? Those days are over, but I'll still take a tag here and there. Mostly though it's official commissions.
Where in town might we see some of that magic? There's something up on the north wall of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar on 22nd St and NW 2nd Ave.
Jel Martinez's "Removal" opens Saturday April 9th at Butter 2301 NW 2nd Avenue Wynwood. Advance preview on Thursday April 7th at 7 p.m.