Karel Martens (b. 1939) was trained as an artist and has worked as a freelance graphic designer, specializing in typography. Alongside this, he has always made autonomous graphic and three-dimensional work. He was awarded the 1996 Dr A. H. Heineken Prize for Art, and the 1993 H.N. Werkman Prize for the design of the architectural journal Oase. His monograph Printed Matter/Drukwerk, designed with Jaap van Triest was awarded the Goldene Letter, the first prize in the selection for ‘die beste Bücher der Welt’ in Leipzig, 1998.
A renowned teacher of graphic design, Martens co-initiated the master programme Werksplaats Typografie in Arnhem, in 1997, and is a guest professor at Yale University.
Karel Martens likes to experiment with numbers, abstract figures, vivid colors and time based media as well as clocks. For our groupshow Index we connected for this reason his work with another ‘playful inventor’, the designer and artist Bruno Munari. In the exhibition, Colours on the Beach, we installed in the gallery a beach cabin which is connected to Martens’ large-scale commission of the same name in Le Havre, France (2017). On these beach cabins he devised a coded rhythm with which to paint the traditionally white beach cabins that form a distinct part of the Le Havre’s cityscape.
His autonomous work is held in public collections including Design Museum, New York (US), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (US), MoMA Library and Archives, New York (US), SFMoMA, San Francisco (US), Los Angeles County Museum, LACMA (US) and Art Institute of Chicago (US).
In the Dutch Profiles series Karel Martens explains more about his methods and ideas: