Patrick Martinez: New American Landscapes and Portraits

Shotgun Review

Patrick Martinez: New American Landscapes and Portraits

By Shotgun Reviews November 14, 2017

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Nina Vukic reviews New American Landscapes and Portraits at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco.


Surrounded by warehouses in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district and lined with potted plants and garden sculptures, opening night at Guerrero Gallery seems almost like a private party. Yet nothing could be more welcoming than the smell of grilled meat and the vibrant artwork inside. At the opening of New American Landscapes and Portraits, people admired Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Martinez’s twenty-eight new works that address issues of racial inequality and gentrification. The canvases, which resemble exterior walls found in Los Angeles, construct a refuge for communal grieving.

Patrick Martinez. Oscar Grant Memorial, 2017; ceramic, neon, and mixed media on panel with wall stucco; 48 x 72 in. Courtesy of Guerrero Gallery. Photo: Andres Guerrero.

Martinez, who is known for working with Pee-Chee folders and neon signs, uses a new technique of mixing stucco, tile, and paint with the occasional neon to create textured, hyper-realistic wall fragments. He meticulously builds a stucco foundation on canvas, then removes saturated underlayers with a pressure washer. The artist’s community-oriented spirit is captured by both the artworks’ haptic quality and their socio-political messages.

Martinez emphasizes and celebrates communities of color, including stories relevant to the Bay Area. His portrait of Oscar Grant, an Oakland youth of color who was fatally shot in 2009 by police in an act of excessive force, is illuminated by a neon blue that commands attention. Oscar Grant Memorial (2017) speaks to racial profiling and discrimination in the police force, as well as media portrayals. Too often, victims of police violence are dehumanized in the news and described with false and negative traits in an attempt to justify the corrupt justice system’s heinous murders. Grant’s painted grin defies this typical portrayal of men of color. The piece’s large size endows the power of visibility to Grant, in turn humanizing him. By depicting him honestly and boldly, Martinez gives a fighting chance to the men of color who are subjected to consistent misrepresentation.

Patrick Martinez. Landscape for Lease, 2017; ceramic, found banner tarp, ceramic tile, mixed media on stucco and neon on panel; 2 panels: 48 x 48 in. each. Courtesy of Guerrero Gallery. Photo: Andres Guerrero.

Landscape for Lease (2017) reveals aspects of communities undergoing another kind of loss: living space. The title alludes to an urban area in the process of being eliminated, most likely gentrified (another locally relevant topic). Martinez combines elements of found material, like a battered “For Rent” tarp, with roses breaking the surface. The neon, clay, and painted flowers fight for space within the piece, emulating the struggles of certain L.A. communities to stay in their homes.

Following Martinez’s first solo show, American Memorial, at Cornell Fine Arts Museum, New American Landscapes and Portraits further establishes the artist’s portrayal of love and memory within communities that are systematically under attack.

New American Landscapes and Portraits was on view at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco from September 16 to November 4, 2017.


Nina Vukic is an art history student and lives in San Francisco. She also interns at Art Practical

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