Escrito de Joel Weinstein en Rotund World
There are also those artists lurking in the shrubbery, half-forgotten, never well known, not much interested in building a career or nursing a reputation. What a friend of ours calls los desconocidos. We haven’t been around long enough to know who, exactly, these might be or if an artist not on the Rotund radar is un desconocido or the Rotund crew unos pinches ignorantes.
But we’ll hazard a guess that Javier Martínez is desconocido, or close to it, since we visited his knockout exhibition at La Liga de Arte en Viejo San Juan, “Re-Cuento,” and none of those we asked had been to see it.
Martínez is an aficionado of trifling objects, mundane scenes, bodily fluids. One entire canvas is devoted to a gathering of framed snapshots or sketches of the sort you might see in disarray on a bedroom dressing table, sitting in a pool of blood. He sometimes works like a miniaturist, creating detailed tableaux of, say, a shower stall drain or a section of wall with a clock, a still life painting, and a vivid red stain bleeding on to the patterned carpet. His style is on the primitive side, especially when it comes to figures, but his intent, always queasy, is unmistakable. Insinuations of meat, money, and body parts appear in unexpected places. He writes excellent little stories of laughable human folly and includes these as texts accompanying his paintings, or simply printed on the wall like broadsides.
“Re-Cuento” begins with a collage titled “Preciado Líquido,” a gathering of apparently haphazard notes, plans, and calculations. There is a quick sketch of clouds. A sewer pipe with a tracing-paper overlay. Notations like “600%,” as if this work is merely a preliminary markup. Statistics with symbols, charting moods or greetings or who knows what, from “Very, very good,” through “Fabulous,” and “Halfway happy” to “Almost happy.” A tiny text, part of which is attached to the collage with a paper clip, tells of a human head found in a sewer which caused the sewer to rupture, leaving the city without water. Much like San Juan.
Another of his tableaux shows a gathering of hospital gurneys in the shadow of a distant city, empty of anything save for bloody sheets. There is also a scene of abject, thorough abandonment: a broken television, a bloody yellow vestment, discarded binoculars, a log, some scribbled notes, and encroaching flames; all in a murky gray void.
Perhaps the highlight of the show is a series of small acrylic-on-paper paintings, with the aforementioned wall and shower drain, plus a scene of an optometrist’s chart from a very bad dream and a lawn littered with fleshy bits. Talk about “frail, afflicted humanity,” Martínez’s vision may be on the nasty side, but its balefulness is redeemed by the artist’s funny, sideways glance and the off-handed look of his painting style, which, we’ll bet, he painstakingly acquired.
Martínez’s written works have their own simple yet well-honed grotesquery, and they’re well worth your time. There is some tourist-baiting , a poke in the academic eye, and more.
Autogiro/el giro del arte actual © Javier Martínez artista/editor