Metaphors are the affirmation of poetry and function as the contentment of life. Many individuals use them as pillars of existence, like cyclical journeys through which they exercise lifepath continuity. Empire: Sea & Empire: Land, the recent double exhibition by Enrique Martínez Celaya (Los Palos, Cuba, 1964) at Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea, is a complex allegory to this process, a step into darkness, loneliness and redemption as seen through the personalized view of a whimsical voyage.
The exhibition takes over the two public locations of the gallery, bringing together a well curated selection of 27 artworks including paintings, sculptures and installations—some of which were presented as part of an earlier show at LA Louver in California. In Martínez Celaya’s own words, referring to Empire: Land (the solid base of the referenced cyclical process), “this project is a reflection on the seed of striving, the soil in which that seed is planted, and why and how that seed is fed and watered.”
Meanwhile, he describes Empire: Sea as “a confrontation with the decision to go somewhere and the road unfolded by that decision.” The show, at large, is a statement about process and transition: migration as continuity, moving from one physical place to another and from one state of mind to the next. Martínez Celaya proposes a narrative with two main characters which are avatars of humanity: the physical being (a boy) and the ethos or social awareness (a unicorn). They navigate a series of atmospheric moody paintings and installations that have essentially encrypted a sense of sadness and sorrow emerging on both sides of the exhibition. Martínez Celaya is capable of building a complex cohesive multi-road narrative in which viewers can build every step of the journey as they please, depending on their personal experience.