Artist at Mstrata Studio
Featured Recent Show:
The Archeology of Memory
January 20th through March 3rd, 2023
Rogue Gallery and Art Center
Of what value is the past? Is it as inconsequential as a fishbone, decomposing on the floor of the Pacific? Or is the past like Poe’s Telltale Heart, beating just under the floorboards - unseen, yet ever present and powerful? My artwork is the record of grappling with such mysteries.
The raw material I use to make these paintings is drawn from the extensive archive of photographic imagery I’ve gathered over the decades...Preview the show and learn more here.
“…Steele’s work exploits the Venetian idea of glazing. Instead of oil color cut with varnish, industrially produced acrylic coats the image edge to edge. The argument for the object to be understood as painting is literally sealed and resolved behind this glazing…the prospect of printed, mounted works drawn by an inkjet printer—marked by mouse and keyboard gestures, and positioned as an as an act of painting…is a provocative prospect on the west coast of the United States…”
-Carter Mull, Worlds within Planes: Martin Steele, the Flaneur, and Twenty-First Century Painting, 2018
About the Artist:
Martin Steele (b. 1949) Los Angeles, CA
Following a stint at UCLA studying Art History and English, Steele’s aesthetic development began in his Venice and Santa Monica studios during the late 1960s and early 70s with photography, drawing, sculpture, and oil painting. He moved to downtown Los Angeles in 1978, establishing both a studio and framing factory at 800 Traction Avenue amid downtown’s pioneering artists, galleries, museums, and alternative art spaces. His successful arts picture framing business, Aesthetic Frame Design, served the artist, gallery, and museum community from 1978 through 1992 and is a founding member of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles).
Steele ran his framing business and continued his art practice within the burgeoning art scene in downtown LA.
In the late 1980s, he swapped brush and canvas for a dot matrix printer and computer. During the ensuing decades, he continued to discover the possibilities - and push the boundaries - of mixed media electronic work. Steele moved to the Rogue Valley in 2018 and established his studio in Medford, Oregon.
Steele’s current body of work, with a nod to early twentieth century modernity, anchors us in the present while tampering with its meaning by layering in iconic imagery from the past. He sources pictures from his prodigious and idiosyncratic archive that contains thousands of images he has shot himself or lifted from books, magazines, television, the internet, art catalogs, and the curious discards of consumer culture. Drawing on this data vault and working in a characteristic palate of saturated hues and chromatic aberrations, Steele invites us into his paintings, each one built from visual rubble into a unique version of history.
Solo Exhibition Credits
Group Exhibitions Credits
Reviews and Publications
Journals and Socials:
“… every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably. (The good tidings which the historian of the past brings … may be lost in a void the very moment he opens his mouth.)” -Walter Benjamin “On the Concept of History” 1940
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