AbKey West sculptor John Martini's heady artwork resides along I-295 South, serving as a beacon to Grounds For Sculpture.

by Megan Sullivan

Grounds For Sculpture began its program Sculpture Along the Way...

Critical Essay

by Annie Dillard

"The formidable sobriety and endurance of the material, rough edge steel, makes an interesting conjunction with the figures. Some of the figures are whimsical, whimsical man endures. Man with brain, and brain conceives, rolling along on wheels of his own devising. Man and woman arise elongate from their steel bases, as at the first day of creation, both vulnerable and durable. Clearly they are made for each other. The very blunt-contoured figures explore the conceptualization further, what is man that you art mindful of him? The measure of all things, in this work. There's also an interesting friction between nature and culture. The (wonderful) bird in the (wonderful) strongly-rooted tree; That's nature. Man and woman arising like thoughts from matter? Nature...but soon man and woman come up with culture; wheels and steel wing and levers. All the simplified human forms in the work raise every question, not least that of beauty. Why do I find these beautiful in their power? The surface execution shows ever -more-sure mastery. But I like them metaphysically. I prize a little card, from a place card, on which you drew the man's head, mouth open, lying dismembered, in profile and in a state of Beckett like post utterance...and next to it you or someone else wrote the words Harold Bloom. Good old existentialism. (It's what I try to do) Why did the chicken cross the mind?"

March, 2001

Critical Essay

by Joy Williams

"John Martini's studio in Key West, Florida, that singular, surprising American city, is an old movie theater, a fitting birth place for his larger than life, enigmatically iconic figures. And one of the delights of Key West is to come upon his work in the gardens, salons and watering holes there. I think of Martini's work as being sly in the most wholesome, enchanting sense. It is not merely a clever stratagem that his marvelous creations are so antithetically sculptural. Why be round when so much pleasure, so much fulfillment can be had in being flat? His creatures are not poised to enter our common, three-dimensional world; they inhabit another time, or timelessness, which time slyly is; they inhabit another dimension of becoming, a very stasis of becoming.

The work is all straight-forward contradiction. His steel is lithe. His silhouettes have soul. There is a sense of bemused energy, an innocence that knowledge can only instruct in further innocence. His lean ladies and whizzy-haired gents, his hermetically self-contained, or startled, or benignly heraldic animals are heroically proportioned but shy, if not, indeed, flabbergasted, to find themselves present among us. They are like Rilkean emissaries from some other, fresh, place. And they refresh us, how grateful we are."

January, 1998


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