2012 photo of Al Martinez at his desk by John Sullivan
After the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens received Al Martinez's work papers in 2006, it fell to Sara Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts, to organize and curate an exhibit on Al's career. That exhibit, Al Martinez: Bard of L.A., was mounted at the Huntington in 2012. Today she has a post on the Huntington's blog, Verso, to mark Al's death on January 12 at age 85.
It was Martinez’s fault, happily, that for five decades his columns and writings inspired readers to think more deeply about the world around them and see more clearly the common humanity that binds people together. Sadly for all of us who have read his words or been blessed with his friendship, his voice has been stilled, for he passed away last week at the age of 85….
Recognizing Martinez’s timeless, graceful prose and his extraordinary contributions to the fabric of Los Angeles, The Huntington acquired his papers in 2006, and I was fortunate to be able to curate an exhibition in 2012 devoted to him and his career. In planning the show and reading Martinez’s writings, I was struck by their poetic qualities, so the title that seemed to capture him best was “Al Martinez: Bard of L.A.” He truly sang the people as he captured their accomplishments, trials, and foibles. He also wrote of the natural world and the way its beauties and power shape us. He specifically wrote of life in L.A. (or “El Lay, La-La-Land, the Land of Fruits and Nuts, the City of Fallen Angels,” as he referred to it), discovering universal truths in the stories he told of his fellow Angelenos.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about another writer, Kent Haruf, whose papers I collected for the library, who had become a dear friend, and who was taken from us much too soon. Now, far sooner than I would wish, I am writing another tribute to a person I knew first as a writer and then as a beloved friend.
For about a year before his death, Al was a columnist for LA Observed, writing about his view of events from Topanga Canyon and, often, about the perils of aging.
A memorial for Al Martinez will be held on Sunday, Feb. 8th, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m, at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave. in Santa Monica, in the Writers Bootcamp building.