RAUL MARTINEZ (1927 – 1995)
Raul Martinez was born in the province of Camagiiey in 1927. In 1940 his family moved to
Havana where, in 1941, he enrolled in the San Alejandro Academy.
His first exhibits, in 1947 and 1948 were of landscapes and other works of academic inspiration. In 1951 he received the Silver Medal at an exhibition of Cuban painting at Tampa University, Florida; and in 1952 he received a scholarship to the Institute of Design of Chicago.
He was a member of the “Group Eleven”, abstract artists who first exhibited at the Lyceum Gallery in 1953. Within the group, he expressed his disagreement with the stereotypes of the “School of Havana”: light, strong colors, baroque, Cuban themes. At a time when many artists suffered from a pseudo-Picassoesque influence, Martinez reached his extreme rebellion in expressionistic abstractions in which he only used black and white as his colors.
In 1964, with the exhibit “Homenajes” (“Homages”) at the Galeria Habana, he broke with abstraction and the Group Eleven. The new work incorporates elements of pop-art and is a reflection of a new reality of his country. If any painting will remain a symbol of the Revolution, it will probably be a painting by Raul Martinez from the second half of the Sixties, with multiple images of leaders presented as myths. The multiplication of images is not intended to diminish the hero’s individuality, but rather to represent his omnipresence.
A special mention must be made of Martinez’ use of collage; this technique expanded his creativity by allowing the superimposition of objects, the association of situations, the mixing of styles; this is illustrated in the 1964 piece “July 26”, in which the symbology of the upcoming pop phase was superimposed on the expressionistic background.
In the 1980’s he started a remake of the pop paintings of his most famous heroes, the poet statesman Jose Marti and the revolutionary Che Guevera. The return to the Sixties is a return to the heroes’ calls to man’s conscience.