Image Breaking | A Conversation with Mauro C. Martinez


Written by Kristopher Wright |  


(Denver CO)

Image Breaking finds Mauro C. Martinez at a crossroads. Both relentless and tender, immersive and skeletal, the artist shares his early findings on myth, disruption, and being.

‘I’ve been thinking a lot about how I make and see images lately, both technically and conceptually. I began to encounter unexamined myths and assumptions in my own practice which governed how I made and looked at art. This exhibition uses painting as a vehicle for inquiry, where artist, viewer, subject and material all square off in a relentless search for meaning.’  - Mauro C Martinez


Where did the title ‘Image Breaking’ come from?

‘So the title itself came from the word ‘image making’ - and from the definition of ‘iconoclast’; Someone who takes images that are either revered or holy or political and treats them, sort of, irreverently. I once saw an interview with Anselm Kiefer and he spoke about how great artists must be iconoclastic. That’s something that I just started thinking about and it took me down this road where I began reconsidering the things I once revered as holy or precious and the various assumptions that I have about making art. And so I would consider each one of these truths as they would come up; Turning them over, probing them a little bit and finding out whether or not it was beneficial to keep thinking that way.

And the thing is, it’s not a super exciting process. It’s not sexy, like tearing down a statue or burning a car… It has to do with every day practicalities and the everyday approach, and the small things that happen.’


You once said that these works represent conditions, as opposed to individuals…What condition does Image Breaking explore?

‘These paintings will always have a sort of multifaceted meaning. I don’t believe that my paintings are about one single thing, or that you can encapsulate the intentions of someone’s practice into a single thread. The idea of ‘Image Breaking’ was always the larger thing that was on my mind, but there’s also a social commentary that takes place within the work. As a maker, I’m existing right now, and I think it’s an inextricable fact that you’re going have to comment on the time. One of those things that I’m addressing right now is the idea that people have become a kind of representative for their own condition.’


‘I think of it as a byproduct of living around so many people today. It would be impossible to know every one of your neighbors. So, for the sake of being able to get through the day, we compartmentalize; ‘the guy who wakes up on Saturday at 6 in the morning to mow his lawn’, ‘The old lady that loves her dog’.


Ready-Mades and Brand logos, often accompany your figures. What’s interesting to you about this relationship?

‘I believe It has more to do with bringing these artifacts of the ‘material world’, into the chaotic world of the painted figure and vice-versa. The inflatable dog [from ‘Man’s Best Friend’] takes on a brand new reality when it’s posed with the painting. It has a lot to do with creating context.’

In many ways, Image Breaking seems to be striving to find new ways for you to interact and communicate with other artists (Dead or Alive). What have you learned from that process?

‘I’ve thought a lot about this in the context of being from a smaller city - I remember when I left and moved to California and I heard about this coffee shop where a lot of local artists would hang out. So I started hanging out there too and began talking to people. By doing that, I felt like I became a part of that organism and that’s the same way I’ve thought about at art history… In a way, it’s like that coffee shop. I believe it’s important to go out and have the dialogue with those artists in order to appropriately locate yourself within it.’


There’s often a looming weight, darkness, or even violence that viewers may perceive in your paintings. Do you feel like this body of work comes from a particularly dark place?

‘I’m interested in contradictions and inconsistencies between different things; aesthetics, moods, disharmonies. If the work is dark, then perhaps it’s posed in direct contrast to myself as a person, who’s not very dark at all…’

Your not afraid to let a few pencil marks show, or to leave entire portions of your canvases untouched! How do you know when an artwork is complete?

‘A work is complete for me when I feel like I don’t have any more moves to make. You get to this place in a painting where any additional marks would just be frosting. The last thing I ever want to do is make a frosted painting that’s been burdened by its own decor.’

What’s next for you in 2019?

‘My goal for the next year is to get to the point where I’m making one large-scale painting every single day. I’ve always felt this kind of weight or importance when it comes to large works and right now I’m trying to remove that preciousness. I think that has to come with quantity!’

Mauro C. Martinez is a painter of the cultural landscape. It's not always a cheerful narrative, but one which resonates with metaphor, irony, grim humor and a multiplicity of painterly styles.

Viewers must confront certain painful aesthetic realities in the present visual account—where indifference and banality pair off and collide with the search for truth and meaning. Martinez sets familiar pictorial forms from art history against the monotonous daily brands of the present. His icons are inflatables, instructional signage in first aid manuals or airports, the blaze orange of construction warnings and his own version of deracinated male and female nudes, which manage to be both monumental yet eerily without context.

He paints an art of belatedness and misplaced meanings, as if some great, good thing has just-departed--and is not likely to return.

Mauro C Martinez currently works and lives in Laredo, Texas.

Image Breaking is now closed, but you can view Available Works here.