NOTE: This review was originally published in 2010. Photos were used with permission from Magnan Metz Gallery. Documentation of permission is available upon request.
This article is being republished on May 9th, which is the anniversary of Raul’s “el malo’s” death. Why? To remember Raul’s older brother, the older brother who only wanted the best and tried his best for his siblings before he was forced to escape Cuba.
This is a review of the exhibit Raul Martinez Eagerly Awaiting that was held July 22 through August 20, 2010 at the Magnan Metz Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea District. The opinions and views of this review belong to Angeline and solely express her opinions.
When you walk into the Magnan Metz Gallery, you are greeted a large open space and a friendly reception. A large open window lets natural light into the gallery. The art, as it should be, is the major focus of the gallery. At this time, the exhibit was Raul Martinez Eagerly Awaiting.
The first art works by Raul Martinez that are seen inside the gallery were created in the 1970s. Cuba was entering its second decade under the communist regime. The colors are bright, strong, and solid. Each drawing is outlined in black on paperboard and then painted in with no shadows. The works of art are beautifully framed in modern clean black frames. The theme of the exhibit is Cuba: its leaders, people, perception of world events, and “social themes.” The art is strongly influenced by pop art as seen through the use of repetition.
Romeo y Julieta is the art work seen from the street when looking into the gallery. It is a darker piece than Raul Martinez’s pop art style from the 1970s, with darker secondary colors of oranges. It makes a seamless transition to the themes Raul Martinez is known for: Jose Marti and Che Guevara. Both I Have Seen with Jose Marti and Che have a darker feel than Raul’s previous art. Che is dated 1985, while I Have Seen remains undated. The creation dates may be similar because of the use of black lines and areas, reds, block-style shadowed facial features, and the designs around each of the figures. They are still a style of pop art, but more serious than the art from the 1970s.
The next division of the gallery occurs along the same wall that has the pop art from the 1970s. Raul Martinez’s charcoal on canvas Hambriento Espero (Eagerly Awaiting) and abstract painting Hay Que Saber (We Have to Know) transition the exhibit from the pop art style to the more abstract and collage pieces found in the next formal section of the gallery. There are abstract paintings from the 1960s and the 1990s followed by collages from the 1990s. The 1960s abstracts are full of textures and subtle shapes. The 1990s abstracts paintings are full of reds, blues, oranges, yellows, blacks and lines, squiggles, and bursts of energy. The collages consist of pastels, transparency sheets, torn pages, transfers, photos, paint, and other items. Upon exiting this section, one realizes there are photographs by Raul Martinez in the office area.
The photographs by Raul Martinez seem disconnected to the rest of the exhibit. The photographs can be dismissed at first because they do not seem to belong to the rest of the exhibit because of where they were displayed in the gallery. The first set is behind the reception desk: three photographs with painted designs and one large black and white photograph. The most striking photograph is the one unpainted, of a boy staring into the camera titled You (Ustedes). This is also the only photograph with a date at all, of 1960. The second set of photographs is found in the office area, past a 1960s abstract painting. These photographs commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in which Raul Martinez highlighted the Cuban flag with color on otherwise black and white prints.
Because there were no labels, posters, etc., a small binder with thumbnail images and data was made available at the reception desk. Some title translations seemed clumsy, for example, the direct translation of Hambiento Espero is better as Hungrily Waiting. Admittedly, the translation of Eagerly Awaiting makes for a better exhibit title.
Without some background in Cuban history and actual experience of the communist regime, most of Raul Martinez’s paintings seem without focus. However, the flow of the exhibit Raul Martinez Hambriento Espero matches the light and space of the gallery: easy to navigate and delicately guided. Most visitors left Magnan Metz Gallery with the impression of Raul Martinez as a Cuban artist who created mostly pop art during this Cuban Revolution. Special thanks to Magnan Metz Gallery bridging the cultures as President Obama slowly opens relations with Cuba.
For a recent article concerning President Obama and Cuba, please visit the following sites:
"US-Cuba Relations in Positive Phase:'' Google Hosted News (AFP), September 8,2010
Foreign Policy: Obama's III-Timed Cuba Move, August 27,2010
"Cuba Libre? Hold Off Booking that Ticket for Now,'' National Public Radio, August 19,2010
For links about artist Raul Martinez, please visit the following the sites:
Museum of New Mexico
Art Experts Website
Pan American Art
If you made it until here, what do you think about my attempt at an exhibit review? If you followed the links, what do you think Raul Martinez really means in some of his paintings?
How many things have changed for me in ten years, concerning Raul Martinez. I don’t feel much of a connection to this artist anymore...for many personal reasons. If I ever stumble upon a work by Raul Martinez, I’ll be interested in learning more about it. But, I don’t believe I’ll travel so far to see any exhibit of his paintings ever again. It’s almost like visiting Cuba: can’t miss where I’ve Never been...can’t miss who I’ve Never met. I really have no reason to seek more Raul Martinez, and don’t really have a reason to visit Cuba anymore, too. I’m moving on….
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