• Download postcard for Mario's lecture and reception (PDF)
A mid-career retrospective of work by abstract painter Mario Martinez (Pascua Yaqui) will open on Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York. It is part of a series of four similar retrospectives called "New Tribe: New York," that focuses on Native American contemporary artists who live and work in New York City. The Martinez exhibition will close on May 8, 2005.
One of the foremost Native American abstract painters, Martinez's densely layered surfaces and rich palettes connect cosmic images, abstractions of animal and plant life and Yaqui traditions. This exhibition features 15 works done in the last 25 years presented alongside six new works. The artist also chose several significant Yaqui objects and images from the museum's collection to include in this installation.
The series will continue with installations by Spiderwoman Theater (Kuna/Rappahannock), May 21 – Sept. 4, 2005; Alan Michelson (Mohawk), Sept. 17, 2005 – Jan. 1, 2006 and Lorenzo Clayton (Navajo/Diné), Jan. 14, 2006 – Apr. 9, 2006.
"New York City is home to the highest urban concentration of Indian people in the United States," said W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. "Presenting the works of these contemporary artists, to their fellow New Yorkers, emphasizes and affirms the contributions of Native peoples to the cultural life of this great city.
"The concept of the new tribe describes not only the urban Indian experience but how it is articulated by incisive works and methods by artists expressing their lives in a complex and contradictory world," said Gerald McMaster, exhibition curator and the museum's deputy assistant director of cultural resources. "These artists are all complex individuals who have developed within highly charged social, historical and political frameworks. They are a new tribe working and enjoying life, through an intercultural perspective from the margins."
Mario Martinez is from Penjamo, the smallest of six Yaqui settlements, in Scottsdale, AZ. After an early art career in San Francisco, he moved to New York City in 2000. He received his bachelor's degree from Arizona State University in Tempe and his master's of fine arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. His work has been exhibited in 2003 in a one-person show at the Cakewalk Gallery in Phoenix. Other group exhibitions include: "Who Stole the Tee Pee?" at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York; "AlieNation" at the American Indian Community House Gallery and the Contemporary Artists Federation Group Show in Saitama, Japan. In 2000, he was a visiting professor of art at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and in 2001 he received the Native Artist in Residence Fellowship from the National Museum of the American Indian.
The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian's George Gustav Heye Center is located at One Bowling Green in New York City, across from Battery Park. The museum is free and open everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. Call (212) 514-3700 for general information and (212) 514-3888 for a recording about the museum's public programs. By subway, the museum may be reached by the 1 or 9 to South Ferry, the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green or the W or R to Whitehall Street.
The museum's Web site is: www.AmericanIndian.si.edu
Mario Martinez's work flourishes in an otherworldly and abstract space.
One of the foremost Native abstract painters working today, Martinez finds abstraction the most fascinating and challenging tradition in painting; for him, it means staying dedicated to a vision and to personal integrity. He is at ease with abstraction because it enables him to draw inspiration from his Yaqui heritage without betraying images that his native community considers sacred—a possibility inherent in representational art. Martinez finds extraordinary solace in the purity of abstraction and an ecstatic absorption in the clean, flat plane of the canvas. His densely layered surfaces and rich palettes connect cosmic images, abstractions of animal and plant life, and Yaqui traditions.
Raised in the Yaqui community of Penjamo in Scottsdale, Arizona, Martinez lived in San Francisco during his early art career in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2002, New York City has been his home. Martinez's bond with New York draws strength from the modernists associated with the city—especially Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Lee Krasner—for whom he feels a deep affinity. Martinez regards his move to New York as his chance to be at the center of the art world and receive peerless art training.
New Tribe: New York is for the artist both a mid-career retrospective that brings together his work from various public and private collections and an opportunity to present six new large-scale paintings. The presentation of Martinez's work is arranged in three interconnected parts. One room contains new paintings done exclusively for this show, while another gallery features a grouping of works that pay homage to the Yaquis of Arizona, of the Scottsdale area, and of the village of Penjamo. Another section, which ranges over thirty years of Martinez's work, begins with an early 1974 painting on Masonite, Untitled, and concludes with the superbly painted Universe and Flowers (2002).