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Of Thee I See: Paintings by Max-Carlos Martinez, 1994-2006

January 21 - March 18, 2007

 

As a child of the 1960s growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Max-Carlos Martinez experienced several awakenings, on the order of ecstatic visions, about art, light, color and his ancestry. Motivated by a poor but supportive family, his father's leadership in the Chicano Renaissance, and the inherent tension between assimilation and the reassertion of ethnic identity, Martinez trusted these visions to guide his life's work. The results speak for themselves in this exhibition of obsessively patterned figurative paintings, which negotiate the territory of autobiography, family history and cultural overlay, against the backdrop of 1960s and 70s psychodelia and pop culture.

A self-taught painter, Max-Carlos Martinez has lived in New York since 1980, and has earned fellowships, grants and residencies from the McColl Center for Visual Arts, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

 


 

Of Thee I See: Paintings by Max-Carlos Martinez, 1994-2006

by Peter Spooner, Curator, Tweed Museum of Art

 

Martinez is a self-taught artist of Mexican, Spanish and Scottish-American heritage, who grew up in the Southwestern U.S. against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, 1960s and 70s pop culture. Martinez asserts, "I was raised on Hot Rods, Van Gogh, Dali, Pollock, and Charlton Heston playing Michelangelo on afternoon TV."

As a youth, he experienced several awakenings, on the order of ecstatic visions, about art, light, color and his ancestry. Of particular importance was the Chicano Renaissance, a reassertion of his ancestral culture in which his father was an important leader. Encouraged by his family, Martinez invested these visions in his life's work-painting that uniquely reflects autobiographical portraiture informed by a cultural memory colored by hallucinatory vision. Martinez also points out that as a self taught urban Mexican-American artist his aesthetic was formed among such influences as "Groovy Nouveau, Acid Art, political activism, the televised revolution. Adolescence, coming of age, coming out, Feminism versus Machismo, and American nostalgia."

The exhibition title Of Thee I See pays homage to Martinez's Chicano ancestors while referring to self-discovery through his art and the nature of his American experience. The exhibition features twenty-four paintings created between 1994 and 2006, derived from two series: One Hundred Years of Becoming and Queens of Albuquerque High, both developed after establishing a New York art world career starting in the 1980s. In One Hundred Years, Martinez worked from vintage black and white family photographs to develop a mythology from the real-life experiences of five generations of ancestors learning to accommodate their milieu along with their Americanization. In the series Queens, Martinez uses portraiture to reveal an "evolution of an imagined visible spiritual skin," and to "explore the concept of a modern cultural tribal marking."

Max-Carlos Martinez has lived in New York since 1980 and has been awarded fellowships, grants and residencies from such institutions as the McColl Center for Visual Arts, Charlotte, NC; The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, Colorado Springs; the Puffin Foundation, Teaneck, NJ; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine.

Of Thee I See is funded in part by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for programs at the Tweed Museum of Art comes from the UMD School of Fine Arts, Student Service Fees, and a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, a Federal Agency. The Puffin Foundation, Ltd. and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, San Antonio, TX supported the creation of the artwork in this exhibition.

This marks the first time Martinez's work has been exhibited in the Midwest.

 


 

(above: Max-Carlos Martinez, Queens of Albuquerque High, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. "After the tumult that the ancestors experienced under spiritual territorialism, we were raised as Mexican-Americanized children. The mythical remembrances of our elders led to the nature of an internalized battle, fought on a dusty plateau, hidden deep within. Our minds were filled with an unexplored identity, one that would implode/explode after the Chicano Renaissance of the mid-1970's. In the body of work Queens of Albuquerque High, I use portraiture to explore the evolution of an imagined visible spiritual skin and explore the concept of a modern cultural tribal marking." - Max-Carlos Martinez)

 

(above: Max-Carlos Martinez, Be Brave Juanita For The Kids, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 16 inches)

 

(above: Max-Carlos Martinez, At Rest in Joy, 1996, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches)

 

(above: Max-Carlos Martinez, The Candyman Can-Can, 2004-2006, acrylic on panel, 18 x 14 inches)

 

(above: Max-Carlos Martinez, Daddy's Girl, 2006, acrylic on panel, 18 x 14 inches)


 

Exhibition checklist

Housewife Battles Self, 1994
acrylic on canvas, 60" x 36"
 
Jack,1994
acrylic on canvas, 36" x 24"
 
Luz,1994
acrylic on canvas, 36" x 24"
 
Father Hero Give Us Life, 1994
acrylic on canvas, 20" x 16"
 
Pull The Trigger, Rape Our Souls,1994
acrylic on canvas, 20" x 16"
 
Be Brave Juanita For The Kids,1995
acrylic on canvas, 18" x 16"
 
The Land of Enchantment,1995
acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"
 
Dormida en Alegria (At Rest in Joy),1996
acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"
 
Child of Such Little Faith,1996
acrylic on canvas, 60" x 36"
 
The Creation of Salvation,1996
acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"
 
Forgotten Remembrances,1996
acrylic on canvas, 60" x 40"
 
You Are Not Forgotten,1997 ­ 1998
acrylic on canvas, 59" x 35"
 
Fire Burns Eye,1998
30" x 40"
 
She Sits With Her Shadow
Why She Waits For 1979
I Think, I Know, 1998
 
Born of No One's Love
Baby Girl Rise Above, 1999 - 2001
acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40"
 
The Queens of Albuquerque High, 2001 - 2003
acrylic on canvas, 20" x 16"
 
Sweet Sixteen, 2004
acrylic on canvas, 18" x 14"
 
The Candyman Can-Can, 2004 - 2006
acrylic on panel, 18" x 14"
 
Cultural Terrorist, 2004 - 2006
acrylic on panel, 18" x 14'
 
I Am Jesus' Little Lamb, 2005 - 2006
acrylic on panel, 18" x 14"
 
Daddy's Girl, 2006
acrylic on panel, 18" x 14"
 
My Beautiful Eye, 2006
acrylic on panel, 18" x 14"

 

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Topher McCulloch and Sandi Peterson, Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth for their help concerning permissions for reprinting the above essay.

 

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