¡Qué interesante y triste la historia de los pueblos y la conciencia y valores de los hombres que los habitan!1
Yo Publio. Raúl Martínez
There is no doubt that Raúl Martínez is a chronicler, yes. But those appreciations focused on orienting the work of the artist as a symbol of socio-political processes tend to distort the essence of a spirit that overcomes taxonomies. Never better said: “The most contradictory, paradoxical, and pathetic of all this is that some still allow themselves to evaluate the painting of Raul as ‘apologetic.’ On the contrary, Raúl always paid the price of subversion and heresy that, genuinely, are part of the new art in any circumstances.”2
Unquestionably, everything acquires a tinge depending on the glass through which it’s seen. However, ninety years after the birth of the paradigmatic artist, what is meant as a tribute –and this is the case of a show like Raúl Martínez, cantagre allegretto, exhibited in the Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam– has to and should hint the breath of a creator who has been controversial, not only for the most dissimilar plastic resources he incorporates, but for those aesthetic-ideological motivations that driven him.
So, it is essential to understand that an artist like this observed the world around with a cautious lens, without it completely conditioning his creation or giving him the title of epic painter. Because, in his own words: “I paint for a very intimate need to communicate something, first, to myself. It is very limited and false to say that I paint so the masses understand me.”3 This makes me think of Raúl Martínez as a true narrator of circumstances –of a myriad of contextual effervesces– that operates as the son of his time. It is not journalism were talking about, but the artistic processes susceptible of autonomous interpretations, sometimes slithered or hidden due to pressures of all kinds.
One must only observe carefully the development of the artist’s work to denote it as diverse. A diversity that is noticed in the evolution and inclusion of those pictorial movements coming from hegemonic centers of artistic production. The flirtation with the visual codes of Abstract Expressionism, the combine-painting of Rauschenberg and Pop Art, make Raúl Martínez an artist dazzled by the visual values that painting gives him in each of its variants. For this reason, the topic to be dealt with can move in a wide spectrum of possibilities (almost as a pretext for such experimentation) and from it emerge both representations of heroes of the revolution, and shadowy social sectors (counterculture?) in the case of their latest drawings. A diversity marked, in addition, by the interdisciplinary aspect that makes the artist a reference of obligatory consultation in the field of graphic design (a discipline that traverses all his pictorial production), photography and illustration.
Raúl Martínez, cantagre allegreto has the merit of allowing us to interact with segments of the artist’s production that we did not physically conceive anymore. Fortunately, the show speaks autonomously of the author of Yo, Publio (I, Publio) as one of the main importers of pictorial models that oxygenated the art of the moment. Also, as one of the most lucid minds in the analysis of art in relation to his time and environment. Thanks to such discursive independence, the artist manages to get away from pro-government attempts and, to paraphrase Gutiérrez Alea, he reminds us that even if the script seems splendid and wonderful, the problem lies in the staging.
–Modesto D. Serpa
1. Such interesting and sad history that one of a country and the conscience and values of the men who inhabit them! I,Publio, Raúl Martínez.
2. Rufo Caballero, “El sentido de la sonrisa. Diálogo y otredad en Raúl Martínez,” Unión, no. 20, 1995.
3. Interview granted by the artist to the journalist Magda Resik, 1993.