In Kunle Martins’s latest exhibition at Bortolami, the New York-based artist brings together a group of portraits drawn on found cardboard. Martins engages the long history of portraiture, conceiving its culmination in the casual intimacy of the nude selfie.
In earlier work, Martins had often worked from passport and driver’s license photos, crafting portraits from the banal images on standardized I.D.s. Now, however, his drawings—as evinced by the majority of works featured in the exhibition—indicate Martins’s turn to portraits of a more intimate nature. As reflected by the eponymous and digitally inflected title of the show, Martins requests nude selfies from friends and sketches the piece based off the shared photo. Rendered in smudgy graphite and charcoal on found cardboard, these depictions are sentimental and studious in their quietness—and, above all, strikingly personal. In Dan (2021), Martins represents his subject in various iterations, experimenting with seriality and layering. He superimposes the central full body portrait with lightly drawn faces and poses taken from other mirror selfies. The blue text alongside the figure that reads “TEAR HERE” reminds the viewer of the portrait’s material origin.
Kunle Martins, Tommy, 2021. Graphite and charcoal on found cardboard, 35 x 92 inches.