The Roulette Stops
By Ricardo Alberto Perez
Each of the drawings that have made up the work of Frank Martinez (Havana, 1972) in recent years is a splendid visual poem where intertextuality and conflict play a determining role as tools to attract the spectator. These pieces are elaborated with the help of images from a constant research linked to the process of thought in its most controversial phase, always adding a good dose of irony and sarcasm.
We face a critical position where the existing lyricism will always be unique, since it is obtained from the corrosive effects caused by the elements and symbols chosen by the artist. Precisely that choice seems to be one of his great abilities, since the certainty with which he does it ensures the communicative efficiency of each one of the stories, which –sustained on the sense of contradiction– produce environments of lucid debate.
In total coherence with his strategy, the titles he selects to name the series, as well as those that identify the works already carry in themselves a load of powerful meanings, capable of dynamiting rhetorical or any other mediocre content. They play with neuralgic local matters, relying on their condition of semantical dilation, and with gracefulness achieve atmospheres where ambiguity reveals and impels the viral trend of the ideas involved.
Through this consecration of the drawing process, where from the formal point of view one could even sense a Zen wink, memory is shown as a hot place, a hotbed that offers information and allows the most diverse re-readings; this becomes even more credible and enjoyable when creatively confronted with the present. In this case it is a present hijacked by the persistent stubbornness of the ideology and its total lack of humor. From these images we confirm that we have remained for too long in a capsule, and the effects are devastating: they have disarticulated our thoughts, isolating us from what is a global contemporary spirit; increasing the experience of loneliness and installing frustration as a brand that defines us.
In the segment of his work that includes the series Penetrations and Hypothermia, Frank E Martinez elaborates in two different moments an exquisite and necessary chronicle about the last five years of the Cuban reality. His glance does not stop at domestic clumsiness; he explores such circumstances from essential aspects that have historically defined Cuban-ness. It has already been evidenced by Cuban thinkers of the caliber of Fernando Ortiz that in this context inertia is something very difficult to break, even in the subject of personal development; that stigma undermines the collective conscience transmitting the false idea that some salvation will come by itself.
Penetrations tackles some nuances and complexities revived by the rapprochement that occurred in the relations between Cuba and the United States between 2014 and 2016. In the series, a double reading is displayed with mistrust: the one that emerges from society, that appreciates the opening and cannot fail to interpret it as a light that appears on the horizon; and the other one that comes from the State; for the latter, the opening itself is viewed with suspicion; it is a danger, something that can unbalance its own structure. Penetrations has its origin at the point where both criteria collide, leaving valuable notes and providing keys for an understanding that is not contaminated by political struggle.
Hypothermia starts from the metaphor of the glacier. Following a hope of what is linked to a pleasant temperature, everything freezes again; then, how can we start achieving what was already in the minds of many, if what is frozen will only melt very slowly? The most valuable thing about these pieces, in addition to their evident conceptual drive, is the astonishing capacity to visually associate elements that, confined to ice, are forced to establish a new type of relationship in which they start to mean differently. Let us say that a link is established with an absurd appearance that will only find logic in the denial of the function of an element faced with the symbolic action of another.
Frank’s work, both the most recent and the one done years ago, is been resulting from an exhaustive mental positioning around the relativeness of everything that happens in the universe according to the different periods, geographical spaces, and political and social scenarios. This positioning is decisive when choosing the supports and resources that accompany him in his adventure; in the case of photography as a reference in the process of construction of the work, and the language of drawing in its final achievement. I believe that in his work the strict sense of organicism does not limit the scope of the images nor the vitality of the concepts.