FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHAT: new exhibition
OF THEE I SEE: Paintings by Max-Carlos Martinez, 1994-2006
WHERE: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth
WHEN: January 21-March 18, 2007
Max-Carlos Martinez is a self-taught artist of Mexican-American heritage, who grew up in the southwestern U.S. against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, 1960s and 70s pop culture, and the Chicano Renaissance, a reassertion of his ancestral culture in which his father was an important leader. As he says, “I was raised on Hot Rods, Van Gogh, Dali, Pollock, Charlton Heston playing Michelangelo on afternoon TV.” As a youth, Martinez experienced several awakenings, on the order of ecstatic visions, about art, light, color and his ancestry. Encouraged by a poor but supportive family, he trusted these visions to guide his life’s work. An intuitive and heartfelt expression of these cumulative experiences, Martinez’ paintings are a wholly unique mixture of autobiographical portraiture, psychedelic vision, and cultural memory. This marks the first time his work has been exhibited in the Midwest.
Martinez describes the alternative influences as an urban Mexican-American self-taught artist as: “Groovy Nouveau, Acid Art, political activism, the televised revolution. …Adolescence, coming of age, coming out, Feminism versus Machismo, American nostalgia during the decline.” He goes on to describe his paintings as “The Purple Hazed remembrance of a new frontier.” Martinez maps that “new frontier” in intensely colored, obsessively patterned figurative paintings that pay homage to the history of his ancestors and to the stark realities of their Americanization.
The exhibition’s title “Of Thee I See,” obviously refers to America’s national anthem, but also to the homage Martinez’ paintings pay to his ancestors, and to the more personal journey of self-discovery his art has led him on. Featuring twenty-four paintings created between 1994 and 2006, the exhibition presents works from two series Martinez created after struggling to establish his career in the New York art world in the 1980s. In One Hundred Years of Becoming, Martinez worked from old black and white photographs of his family to explore the mythical and day-to-day experiences of five generations of Americanized ancestors, in, as he describes it, “a landscape of a certain sorrow,” where he asks, “What do I contain of the remains of this geneological legacy?” In the series Queens of Albuquerque High, Martinez uses portraiture to “explore the evolution of an imagined visible spiritual skin and explore the concept of a modern cultural tribal marking.”
A self-taught painter, Max-Carlos Martinez has lived in New York since 1980. He 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.
The artist will be present at a reception opening the exhibition on Sunday, January 20, 2007, 2-4pm. Max-Carlos Martinez will speak about his work in a lecture at the Tweed Museum of Art at 6:30pm on Tuesday, January 22. These events are free and open to the public.
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. Works in this exhibition were created by the artist with support from The Puffin Foundation, Ltd., Teaneck, NJ, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, San Antonio, TX.