by Elenore Welles

"Map No. 29: Padilla's Fallow Fields," o/c, 72 x 84", 1994-96.


"Map No. 30: For Rain/For Rain,"
o/c, 48 x 52", 1995-97.



"Map No. 36: Limestone,"
o/c, 32 x 32", 1997.


"Map No. 56: "Dry Lighting,"
o/c, 52 x 67", 1997.

(Jan Baum Gallery, West Hollywood) In the past, Martin Facey's sensuous expressions evolved from subject matter that explored realism in a variety of guises, often within the context of abstraction. Many of his images were developed around the premise of still-lifes. However, they were embedded with a variety of metaphorical references that had subjective undertones.

Facey moved from Los Angeles to New Mexico in 1986, and is presently living and working along the Rio Grande River basin. His latest work, Odyssey Diagrams: The Map Paintings, strays from the figurations of the past and are more rooted in landscape traditions. Influenced by the dramatic scope of his current environment, his works have become more abstract and closer to the diagrammatic images suggested by nature. In the Map Paintings Facey provides viewers with his distinctive rhythmic visual language. Inspiration is derived from a medley of mercurial natural elements. They include the striations, formations and elliptical substructures of fields, forests, waterways and rivers. Other influences stem from the structural elements found in Navajo blankets and musical staffs.

Facey regards the language of landscape as an apt metaphor to probe the relationship between order and chaos. Rather than adhere to the constraints imposed by the line-of-sight perspective of traditional landscapes, he works within his own structural constraints. References to separate moments and to simultaneous developments in time bring to mind Cubism's fragmentations and multiple perspectives. At the same time, his combination of symmetry, order and balance reveal the nucleus of a true classicist.

These landscapes relate to the structured planes found in urbanscapes, such as those depicted by Richard Diebenkorn. But distinct symmetry is rarely found in nature. His precise geometric configurations are more an effort to impose his own sense of order. In the Map Paintings, Facey evokes sky, water and earth, creating an alliance between predictability and the moods and vagaries of natural forces. Concentric shapes and divergent lines allude to genetic mutations, sedimentation, aquifers, fossils, and tornadoes.

Dry Lightning depicts the delicate concerto played between conflicting forces in Southwest parlances. An environmental map of blue sky, water, purple mountains and layers of varicolored sedimentation, it evokes the color and rhythms of the land. On a distant horizon, a house on fire from lightning suggests a fragile bond between devastation and beauty. Facey adds circles and ovals to metaphorically evoke feed-back loops and nature's many predictable cycles.

In Caduceus, Facey allows a large lightning-shaped bolt to dominate precisely delineated layers, once again evoking the symbolic struggle between the ungovernable forces of nature and the imposition of order.

Nature's rhythms play out once again in Map No. 26. Above ground, storms rain down from the heavens. Below, red and yellow chevron type stripes resemble earth's anticlines and synclines, gradients of stratified rock that dip toward each other. They either pitch downward to the earth's core or thrust upward to produce mountains. Blue geometric shapes cut through the layers, bestowing an orderly cast upon nature's upheavals.

As a result of Facey's precision, geometry and structure, his landscapes evoke a disarming sense of serenity, as though nature itself presents us with Platonic ideal forms. Of course, abstraction ultimately confronts the viewer with its own language--its own reason for being, so to speak. To this end, he applies a consistent crafts- manship. By emphasizing the unity of structural elements, he achieves a painterly language that is compelling and seductive.