Noelle Martinez Blends Art and Hip-Hop with "Back in the Daze" at Phoenix's Willo North Gallery

Categories: Visual Art

Nicholas Balanon
Phoenix artist Noelle Martinez is pictured in her downtown Phoenix studio.
A wave of nostalgia is sweeping the nation for a decade that, in reality, was not so long ago. The 1990s brought with it flannel and grunge, crop tops and pop, and gold chains and hip-hop. Each has had a lasting impact on not only fashion and the music scene, but popular culture as well.

The impact the '90s had on Noelle Martinez resonates with her today. The Arizona-grown, 24-year-old artist grew up passionate about many things, but her upcoming solo collection marries two of those loves: art and hip-hop. In the year since her last show, Martinez has spent many a waking moment in her downtown Phoenix studio, creating paintings inspired by legends like Wu Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac Shakur, and Notorious B.I.G.

"Back in the Daze: An Exploration of Afrocentric Music of the '90s" at Willo North Gallery is a twist on iconic images from stoic faces of some of the biggest names from both East and West Coast to catchy, infamous songs like Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" off his 1994 Doggystyle record, produced by Dr. Dre.

See also: Ishmael Dueñas Presents Group Show "Future Shock" at Frontal Lobe in Phoenix

Courtesy of Noelle Martinez/Nicole Royse
Martinez painted portraits of Biggie and Tupac for her RIP series.
"Growing up in this period when everyone was free and doing what they loved, this show is my tribute to this era and how much it has affected my life," Martinez says.

Saturday's opening reception, Martinez's second gallery event, doubles as the debut show for Willo North's new curator, Nicole Royse, and kicks off the summer season.

Royse, who continues to hold her position as assistant curator at MonOrchid -- one she's had for over a year and a half -- was drawn to the "positive and supportive atmosphere of the [Willo North] gallery and the ability to work closely with local artists in a more intimate setting," she says.

So when owner Kristin Shears approached her about the curator position, it was a no-brainer.

Earlier this year Royse put on her first independently curated collection at monOrchid, "Apache X: Ten Years of Douglas Miles and Apache Skateboards." The spring show drew a lot of attention, particularly during the area's Art Detour event.

Royse had heard impressive feedback about Martinez's debut show, "I Just Woke Up" at Palabra Collective last year, and Shears had met her at Chaos Theory in 2013, so bringing Martinez and her work to the small gallery off Seventh Avenue was bound to happen.

"This exhibition reflects my interests, which [are] Arizona artists, contemporary artwork, and how our state influences their work," Royse says. "My goal is to showcase artwork and artists the community can connect with and get excited about. Martinez mixes her usual comic-infused style with a raw spirit that is captivating and nostalgic. Phoenicians will definitely relate and hopefully be surprised at the fresh spin on this topic."

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