César A. Martínez: In Retrospect

May 8 - 15, 2020
  • César A. Martínez (b. 1944, Laredo, Texas) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in San Antonio. Martinez is...

    César A. Martínez, by Bob Maxham, c. 2000

    César A. Martínez (b. 1944, Laredo, Texas) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in San Antonio. Martinez is a major figure in the Chicano Art Movement thanks to his work which is rooted in South Texas and Mexican American culture. His portraits are icons of Texas art history and reflect a broad knowledge of the history of art in both Europe and the Americas. His artwork allows him to explore his multicultural identity and provide familiarity to those often not represented in art.

     

    Martínez was a teenager during the early 1960s in his hometown, Laredo, Texas where pachucos (zoot-suiters), batos ("dudes"), and rucas (girls) were part of his everyday life. In contemporary Chicano culture, the pachuco is an endless source of curiosity and fascination.

     

    In the following series of paintings, pachucos and batos are treated as both particular characters and as a social phenomenon featuring universalized composites of recognizable characteristics. Through thoughtful color choice, Martínez portrays invented subjects conveying individualistic moods and attitudes, isolated in abstract chromatic landscapes, rendering them unavoidable and confrontative.

     

     

     

    • César A. Martínez, Red Macias, 2016
      César A. Martínez, Red Macias, 2016
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    • César A. Martínez, La Perla, 2016
      César A. Martínez, La Perla, 2016
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    • César A. Martínez, Bato Rojo, 2020
      César A. Martínez, Bato Rojo, 2020
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    • César A. Martínez Blue Bato Con Sunglasses, 2016 Acrylic on muslin 44 x 44"
      César A. Martínez
      Blue Bato Con Sunglasses, 2016
      Acrylic on muslin
      44 x 44"
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  • 'I've never really done art that I would say is political. But I think the kind of art that becomes...

    César A. Martínez working in the studio, courtesy of Artpace San Antonio, c. 1997

    "I've never really done art that I would say is political. But I think the kind of art that becomes politicized, as in my case and in many of my contemporaries, is simply because it had a Chicano perspective or Chicano imagery. The Chicano Movement was such an overpowering thing that I couldn't help but become associated with it. The Chicano Movement was a renaissance in thinking about ourselves and in creating those institutions and images and writings that reflected who we are. They were non-existent at that time, we had nothing to relate to so we had to make it up as we went along. And we did. And that was the road to a deeper understanding of who we are."

     

     

    - César A. Martínez

  • Martínez's work has been honored and exhibited for decades. The above image on the left was taken during the opening of ¡MIRA! The Canadian Club Hispanic Art Tour 1984, where Martínez won a grand prize for his painting, El Pantalón Rosa. Martínez won $5,000 cash as an award and elected to donate another $5,000 to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas.

     

  • The print Pantalón Rosa is based on the award-winning painting above and is part of Ruiz-Healy Art's collection.

    "The print depicts a Pachuco-type Chicano, also called a vato, in full frontal pose. He is wearing eyeglasses and is dressed in a striped, watermelon green and black shirt, with a thin, brown knit vest and pink pants that prominently displays stitching at the waist, the belt loops and down the front. His shirt, featuring wide lapels, is buttoned to the topmost button, Pachuco style. He wears a narrow, dark belt. His dark eye glasses partially obscure his eyes, the pupils of which can not be detected. He appears to be posing for his portrait. The figure in the foreground stands against an abstract, textured sienna background above which is a horizontal green and cream textured field. The figure is solemn, emotionless, and appears to be somewhat unapproachable, even daunting."

    -Chicana and Chicano Space, Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University

  • Exhibitions honoring César A. Martínez

  • Above: Installation images from a retrospective at San Antonio's McNay Art Museum, which surveyed twenty-five years of the artist's work, from his first widely exhibited works of the mid-1970s through the end of the century.

     

    Martínez’s work has been included in the landmark exhibits La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexican/U.S. Border Experience, at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego; CARA: Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation 1965-1985, organized by the Smithsonian Institute; and Hispanic Art in the United States, at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He was honored with a solo exhibition, and accompanying book, at the McNay Art Museum San Antonio, Texas in 2009. He has also shown at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio; and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, amongst other institutions.