Palhaco translated from Portuguese means clown. This was the beginning thought behind this series of painted wire sculptures of artist Steve Martin. Martin’s desire to entertain his 9-month-old son Aidan was the initial inspiration. “ Aidan was fascinated by bold colors and would spend hours looking at my collection of primary colored abstracts by Australian artist Derek Hambly. I wanted to infuse color into my wire sculpture so I created a loose abstract of Aidan face, small and round with large expressive eyes, painted it and mounted it on a colored background.” Martin’s focus mostly centers on figuration at a time when the advantage seems with abstract art. So this series called for more exaggeration more abstraction yet it feels intimate and light, not to say lightweight. It’s as suspenseful and insubstantial as a magic act. As in Martin’s other work it starts from nothing just some wire, all of the sudden there is something, which is what magic is. The story it tells is like a Kids version of art, with a grown-up surprise at the end. They also look as if they were fun to make.
These Palhaco sculptures give the illusion of looking at a painting from a distance but as you move closer the three-dimensional aspect become clear. As in Martin other figurative wire sculptures they embody economy of form and conceptual daring. While not as elegant they have a gawky spark of life that seems more relaxed and assured.
Done as one continuous line, they are like an effortlessly sophisticated form of penmanship. Several examples in the form of portrait heads are the first thing you see when you step Martin’s studio. They’re an arresting sight, in a gently wow-inspiring way.
For his purposes industrial wire is an ideal medium. It is cheap, malleable, portable and equally adaptable to precision work and doodling, which to him is the same thing. Wire is like three-dimensional ink; it is a means of combining drawing and sculpture in space. At the same time each is a fabulous virtuosic feat, abstract but exacting. Set on bases or wall mounted, and casting subtle shadows the portraits have at the same time wit and refinement.
Martin is diligently creating a trail for himself, in which he has studied, expanded, and further elaborated, until a distinctive course for his work has became clear. The first time you come across the work most people are hypnotized. You can literally see it when that amazed smile blooms in the faces of the viewers. When finally they realize not only did the artist conceive the work but are amazed at the technical skills needed to carry out the idea.