Even on small objects and flat surfaces, the stark line-drawings of Shantell Martin have an immediate and elemental appeal.
But the British-born artist, whose solo exhibition "Someday We Can" opens March 11 in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave.), really shines when she has some serious space to play with.
Take the Albright-Knox's historic sculpture court, where Martin has scrawled her improvised drawings across huge swaths of the space. The effect is like walking into a three-dimensional sketchbook, each white-painted object displaying some fragment of Martin's roving imagination. Her work in the sculpture court features human faces juxtaposed and intertwined, words scrawled across painted bottles and toy airplanes, strange symbols linked together to create inscrutable maps of unknown places.
Martin speaks of her pen as an autonomous object that she follows along on a journey of its own making.
"The pen knows where it's going and I've got very good at following," she said in a short video documentary produced by The New Yorker in 2014. "I don't know how it works or why it works, but I trust in the pen and I trust in this experience. Every time I step back, I secretly say to myself, 'It worked!'"
As part of the show, organized by Albright-Knox public art curator Aaron Ott, Martin also will create a public mural in June at an East Side location yet to be announced. The mural project was sponsored by the University at Buffalo's Creative Arts Initiative.
The exhibition runs through June 25. Admission on April 7 is free as part of the gallery's monthly M&T First Fridays event, and Martin will appear at 7:30 p.m. April 7 for a public conversation in the gallery's auditorium. Regular admission is $6 to $12. Call 882-8700 or visit albrightknox.org.