Oil on canvas
This large canvas assembles itself around a number of intellectual and aesthetic problems. They all demand answers. For example, the figure can actually read as either male or female, standing motionless behind a transparent middle ground. The foreground is established, close to the viewer, with the incongruous white lines of the oil stick, enhanced by a finely-etched "a" in the lower right . The extreme control Martinez has exerted over the figure--in a palette of sumptuous greys and luminous whites--at first seems insultingly abandoned, interrupting our natural admiration with mere squiggles and random cartoonish references. The war he sets up between foreground and background would seem to mock any resolution. Frustration (the by-product of irony) is the first thing Drop Shadow serves up to the viewer.
One suspects the dialogue Martinez is having may not entirely include the viewer, but is an artifact of his own conversation with the painterly canon. Since the Renaissance, a painting has been seen as a window opening into space, a space whose elements we "see" as the artist inserts them into our awareness. Such notions, of course, ran aground in the early 19th century in Europe, first, with the disintegrating brush-strokes of Romanticism, folding over into the flat painterly declarations of Manet--a conviction that paintings are not "windows" at all, they're paintings, and always were paintings, and the picture plane itself is an unavoidable reality in making them. Working out the problem in aesthetics between classical realism and modern abstraction has basically pre-occupied art for over one hundred years. As late as the 1960's, disputes over the plausibility of pure abstraction (like those we see in Rothko or Motherwell) continued to divide critics. Martinez may have actually managed to find something new to say in this "painter's" dialogue by uniting both in a single work: a deeply-regressioned figure set behind a "flat" non-representational foreground. Martinez not only leverages his viewers to reconcile the pictorial ironies of Drop Shadow, but the art wars of the past 200 years.