Martínez Celaya was born in Cuba and raised in Spain and Puerto Rico. He began his formal art training as a painter's apprentice at the age of 12. He holds a BA in Applied Physics and a minor in Electronics Engineering from Cornell University and a Master of Science major in Quantum Electronics from the University of California, Berkeley. He conducted some of his physics research at Brookhaven National Laboratory and holds several laser device patents. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and received an MFA with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was also a Regents Fellow and Junior Fellow of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center. In 1997 he was honored with the Art Here and Now award from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 1998, Martínez Celaya created the internationally recognized Whale & Star publishing house which publishes books on art, poetry, art practice and critical theory . Prior to his current academic positions, he held the positions of Roth Family Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College, Presidential Professor at the University of Nebraska, and Associate Professor at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University. In 2020, he received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Otis College of Art and Design, where he delivered the commencement address. He is a fellow of the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation. He serves on the board of trustees of Otis College of Art and Design, was an art advisor to the Anderson Ranch Arts Center from 2018 to 2021, where he received the National Artist Award in 2007, and is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Hispanic Society of America. He has lectured worldwide, including at the American Academy in Berlin, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Royal Drawing School and the Aspen Institute.
Watching and Waiting: Enrique Martínez Celaya Selected Sculptures 2005-2023 is the exhibition that the Marino Marini Museum is hosting from March 31st to May 29th , the artist's first in Italy, born in Cuba and residing in Los Angeles. Trained as a painter, in over thirty years of artistic practice, Martínez Celaya has experimented with sculpture, photography, video and writing, investigating through all these media the fundamental relationships between man and the world. His figurative language has its roots in nature, starting from common and familiar images such as trees, flowers, rivers, skies, sea, but also animals and human figures. The initial simplicity of this imagery, however, gives way to a deeper, opaque and unstable experience that lurks beneath the surface.
The exhibition, curated by Giorgio Verzotti, pays specific attention to the sculpture of Martínez Celaya, almost in dialogue with the works of Marino Marini. For the first time, the artist transforms, for this exhibition, the flickering images of his paintings into concrete objects in bronze, concrete, wax or wood, which share space with the viewer and intensify their personal involvement. Thus sculpture becomes a powerful medium through which Martínez Celaya explores highly personal and intimate concepts that characterize the emotional journey of life, such as memory, loss, vulnerability, fortitude, the ephemeral and hope.
Martínez Celaya's sculptures are presented as fragments of a story or a poem which, in their physicality, occupy the space in which the visitor moves. They seem to be a permanent version of what is usually a fleeting act: crying, sitting down, raising an arm, sheltering. They perform the function of witnesses, intensified by their immobility. Immobility that does not want to be impassive, but rather resistance, determination, waiting and patience, as the title of the exhibition itself underlines, Watching and Waiting.
On the occasion of the exhibition, the in-depth catalog on all of the American artist's sculptural practice will be published.
Enrique Martínez Celaya is an artist, author and former physicist whose works have been exhibited and collected by major institutions around the world. He is Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts at the University of Southern California, Distinguished Professor for MFA in Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design, and Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. He has carried out exhibitions, projects and interventions in museums, galleries and other places of culture, including the Berliner Philharmonie in Berlin, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York and the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Germany. His works are featured in 56 international public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig. Martínez Celaya is the author of numerous books, including the two-volume Collected Writings and Interviews, 2010-2017 and 1990-2010, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2020 and 2011; and The Nebraska Lectures, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011. His work has been the subject of several monographic publications, including Martínez Celaya, SEA SKY LAND: towards a map of everything, Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2021, Enrique Martínez Celaya and Käthe Kollwitz: Von den ersten und den letzten Dingen, Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2021, Martínez Celaya, Work and Documents 1990-2015, Santa Fe: Radius Books, 2016, and Enrique Martínez Celaya: Working Methods, Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2012. the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig.