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Lilian Martinez "Soft Shades"


  • Nationale 3360 Southeast Division Street Portland, OR, 97202 United States (map)

"Soft Shades"
February 3–March 11
, 2019
Opening reception Sunday, February 3 from 3-5 PM

With Soft Shades, her first solo show with Nationale, Lilian Martinez brings to the gallery bold works that play within the narratives of comfort and bodies at leisure. The domestic settings of the paintings—a shower, a couch, or luscious plants—are done in warm, soft pastels that contrast with the nature of the large and flat brown bodies on view. In placing these figures within such serene settings, Martinez establishes a strong emphasis on representing women of color at rest and in power within their personal domiciles, while also retaining an overall easy and playful tone. These works imply a dichotomy of strength and softness. However, on these canvases strong and soft meld together to work cohesively and harmoniously. For Martinez, a woman can be both soft and strong, she can command a space as effortlessly as she can blend into her surroundings.

Her portraits are meant as celebrations of the vitality of women. When she paints a figure wearing Nike sneakers, she is calling upon the tenacity of Nike, the goddess of Victory, and countless other resilient women before her. When she depicts her figures large and sinuous, she is perhaps referencing The Venus of Willendorf, the prehistoric fertility figurine, and its embodied qualities of overt femininity, prowess, and robust stature. Although the figures may appear amorphous and sexualized, Martinez pulls away from this interpretation and proposes instead one in which other women of color can simply see their own strength mirrored on the canvas. Above all else, what these works strive to do is continue the sense of interconnectedness painted into their very fiber. Calling to light a larger cultural and art historical setting, Martinez means to demonstrate the long-standing theme of women, particularly women of color, reclaiming and prioritizing dominance in specific settings of privilege.

Influenced in its color palette by the sun worn plasters and stuccos Martinez sees while driving through Los Angeles, a city she moved to a few years ago, Soft Shades is an exhibition meant to incite conversation and introspection. Viewers may be moved to joy by these bright and energetic paintings, as well as consider these pieces’ larger place in our ongoing conversations about culture and sex.

Lilian Martinez (b. 1986, Chicago, IL) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She earned a BFA in Photography from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the founder of BFGF, an art brand working with digitally printed and woven versions of her artwork. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, most recently with Ochi Projects, Los Angeles, The Naughton Gallery, Belfast, Ireland, and Commune, Tokyo, Japan.

Our new winter hours are:

Mon & Tue 12–5pm
Thur-Sun 12–6pm
Closed Wednesdays

Earlier Event: January 26
Wiley "Ego Placebo"
Later Event: February 9
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