We are pleased to announce our fifth solo exhibition featuring Maria Martinez-Cañas, comprised of large-scale, unique works that have been completed in 2011/12. Described as “Photo Paintings”, this body of work stems from an inversion of Francis Bacon's process, which originated in cinematic formats and photographic sources that were then turned into paintings. Martinez-Cañas takes his paintings as a reverse starting point; each unique work is of mixed media, incorporating image transfer, painting and collage onto wood veneer, measuring either 96 x 96 or 36 x 48 inches. Her new series, as those that have come before it, wrestles with origins, identity, perceptions and ideas of source, translating the inspirations that have empowered and informed her work into physical manifestations.
Born in Cuba, her family relocated to Puerto Rico to escape the onset of the Fidel regime. She has continued to move extensively, living in both Europe and the United States, settling in the Havana section of Miami, where she lives and works. Her artistic approach resembles her nomadic journey between points, where locales begin to break down and interrelate in new ways. Her photo paintings attempt to make sense of the fragmentary nature of memory as well as place, bringing together images of disparate sources that while seemingly unified, tend to diverge at the same time.
Testifying to the dissolution of an “indigenousness” or homeland, the photo paintings stir sentiments of non-being, or transience between states of being. They appear without beginning or end, their trajectories charting a course that splinters into territories both abstract and real, alluding to the transmutational qualities of Bacon's paintings. A hallmark of Bacon's oeuvre is that his images can seem overtly dynamic or animated in an otherwise static medium. Martinez-Cañas’ photo paintings mimic the scale of Latin American murals, while having more expressionistic compositions.
Following in a DADA approach to photomontage and collage, her photo paintings collide her own evocative and blossoming forms with myriad modes of photographic images, taken from modernist artists that have played an important role in Martinez-Cañas’ growth. In this series, she pays homage to the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Eadweard Muybridge, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, among others, using their initials in the titles of each work.
Martinez-Cañas' use of these influences, references and originations, brings a kaleidoscopic tension that relates to the task of locating oneself and one's surroundings while constantly in flux. An impor- tant reference in her work derives from the cubist structures and organic amalgams of Wifredo Lam, an Afro-Cuban artist that moved between geographies and modes of making throughout his lifetime. In a sense, the cultural exchange and dialogue between Lam and artists such as Pablo Picasso or Joan Miró for example, spanning across continents and traditions, is continued and expanded upon in Martinez-Cañas' photo paintings, which incorporate the cross-pollination of ideas and inspirations.
Martinez-Cañas studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is in numerous public collections; in New York the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Ford Foundation as well as the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation and The Miami Art Museum, The George Eastman House, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Los Angeles Count Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and many others. She was recently awarded a visual arts fellowship to Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, and she was a recent recipient of a grant from the No Strings Foundation in Los Angeles.