The End Justifies the Means

Transitivity in Frank Martínez Work

/ 1 December, 2015

[…] Literal (2012-2014) is the series which will define Frank Martínez’s recent attention centers, exclusively characterized by a drawing with some reminiscences of pictorial hyperrealism. In this group, the pleasure to portray scenes of the United States life and history is still kept, since the artist understands that geographic and cultural proximity is something unavoidably linking us. The pieces highlight crucial moments, frozen in suggestive scenes, which have been slightly contextualized anew and cloaked by a new connotation. Thus, the arrival of American troops to the Philippines in the case of Accidental; the greeting, supposedly cordial, between Gerald and Betty Ford and Richard and Pat Nixon during the farewell of this last president in the White House, in Movimiento de cuadros; the staging of Martin Luther King murder, in Untitled; or, simply, Elvis Presley swimming in tropical waters watched by two expectant subjects on the breakwater in American Dreams, are brought up to date.

The abovementioned works show the eagerness, present in Frank Martínez’s complete oeuvre, of endowing his characters with an individual psychology, whether being common subjects or characters with a very worldwide well-known public nature. The referents are found in various photographic works by Robert Frank and Walker Evans, as well as in photo-reports in Life magazine, which marked milestones because of being controversial or hitting the headlines with topics like racism and violence. The appropriation of these images is not fortuitous. To select them, the artist makes a meticulous research on the origin and original context of each one and these are the distinctions justifying their placement on a new stage.

But none of these movements is uncalled-for in the works of Frank Martínez, an artist who likes to “translate” stories on the canvases and, when doing so, ends up updating or reinventing them. The first logical transit in his work results in a conflictive process of finding a referent, consciously manipulate it and then transfering it to the canvas. The second consists in varying or changing iconic photographs and, consequently, manipulating the order of the events placing them in a contemporary environment. Other of the reshuffles his work experiences is to be found on the path chosen by the artist to make the coexistence of a hegemonic culture feasible, as the North American is with the otherness of Cuban culture and history. There are other mobilities, latent in turning what is cult with what is popular, what is serious with that is jocular, what is old with what is new, and what is sacred with what is profane, but “transitivity” not only implies an effective process on the referential or conceptual level, but also a functionality of these efforts in the visual field. It is precisely in this field where mutations are valid for the artist, where the end justifies the means.

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