Magnan Metz Gallery is proud to present for the first time in the United States an exhibition of personal work by Cuban painter Raúl Martínez (Ciego de Avila, 1927 – Havana, 1995), considered one of the most influential artists in Cuba’s history.
Despite the fact that Martínez is considered an innovative and respected figure in Cuban art history, the political isolation of the island after the 1959 Revolution effectively prevented his artistic production from reaching much of the outside world. Eagerly Awaiting is an introduction for US audiences to the vibrant compositions and eloquent voice of Martínez’s work. The exhibition includes forty-three pieces from the private collection of eminent playwright Abelardo Estorino, who was Martínez’s life-long partner. Among the works is a sampling of photography, painting, posters and collages that spans the 1960s to the mid-90s.
Eagerly Awaiting takes into account Martínez’s significant break with the prevailing ideas behind American and European Pop Art and Photorealism. While deeply influenced by these movements, Martínez translated them into something distinctly Cuban: his Pop canvas Yo He Visto focuses on Cuban national hero Jose Martí, paying tribute to his cultural contributions, rather than ironically critiquing him as the work of Warhol or Oldenburg does with American consumerism. In Untitled (Cowboy), Martínez’s photograph of a young caballero documents the nation’s pride in its youth. Martínez paints colorful layers of blues, reds and pinks atop the actual photograph, effectively taking the formal ideas behind Photorealism and imbuing them with revolutionary sentiment. In these and other works, Martínez’s singular and at times transgressive tendency against mainstream art movements attains a poetry in a language that is all its own.
A versatile artist, Martínez is revered not only as a painter, but also as a well-known poster and book designer, an accomplished photographer, and later in life as a teacher, publisher and muralist. Although the most comprehensive collection of Martínez’s work remains in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba, Eagerly Awaiting gives the public an excellent idea of the vitality of this active and remarkable artist, who was conferred Cuba’s National Fine Art Award in 1995 for his life’s work.
The exhibition is organized by Corina Matamoros, curator at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and accompanied by a 4-page fuller catalogue. Matamoros is currently preparing a definitive book on Martínez that recognizes the significance of his oeuvre and shares insight into his personal archives, including artwork, photographic negatives and personal papers.