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Kunle Martines Draws His Friends in New Solo Show in NYC

Even as one of the most renowned graffiti artists in NYC, in one of the most renowned graffiti crews in IRAK, there was something both raw and tender about Kunle Martins. On the street he was known as EARSNOT, which immediately doesn't resonate with tenderness, but it was there. The energy and devotion to his friends and others in the NYC art community was beyond palpable. In his works for Beyond the Streets, his pencil works were both elegant and perfectly imperfect, a direction reflection of street culture, graffiti and friendships. 

Courtesy of the artist, Bortolami, New York, and 56 Henry, New York

Martins recently opened a new solo show of pencil works, S3ND NUD3S, in collaboration with Bortolami Gallery and 56 Henry at 55 Walker Street in Manhattan. Using just graphite and charcoal on white cardboard, Martins gave his friends an assignment: send me a nude selfie. That in itself, in this day and age, holds true to the idea of the selfie is often an act of narcissism or even a glamorized self-study. In Martins hands, the vulnerable request leads to a more nuanced study of his friends. Even when we began to understand the prompt Martins created, you have to wonder to yourself how you see your close kin and relationships, how you would depict imperfections. Or, have you actually even looked at your friends before?

Courtesy of the artist, Bortolami, New York, and 56 Henry, New York

That Martins uses cardboard, often collaged together to create the right surfaces for his portraits, keeps a connection to the street aesthetic he is famous for, but also captures a sense of the things we take for granted that exist all around us. Whether that is indeed friendship or the idea that we can just discard objects with ease, makes for a powerful showcase. 

 is on view through May 28, 2021