First published: Winter 2023/24
On the collaged screens of his cardboard TV sets, Lázaro Martínez broadcasts his own versions of the stories of Cuba
The art of Lázaro Antonio Martínez Durán, with its originality and its unexpected narrative, is becoming increasingly important in the ongoing story of Cuban art brut. Martínez was born in Havana in 1983 with a neurodevelopmental disorder. As a child, he liked to repair broken objects that he found around the house and in the street, and he showed an early interest in art. In his teenage years, he began to draw in an intensive, concerted way but – while his mother recognised his passion – she knew that enrolling him in art school was not viable because of his health issues. Instead, she began taking him to art workshops where he could develop his skills. Although none of these environments truly captured his free and creative spirit, they provided an important step in Martínez’ personal fulfilment – they were places that, like his home, supported him in his dream of being an artist, and where conditions were right for him to socialise. The happy man Martínez is today owes much to these workshops.
Untitled, 2021, collage and mix media on found cartons, 23.5 x 17 x 9 in. / 60 x 43 x 23 cm, all artwork, courtesy: Riera Studio | Art Brut Project Cuba
His life, far from being consumed by illness, is marked by positivity, creativity and – increasingly – artistic recognition. As well as being one of the most interesting artists in his home country, Martínez has recently been part of contemporary art and art brut events further afield. In the last few years, his work has been featured in the exhibition "Climbing Vine Academy", during Documenta Fifteen, in Germany; "Photo | Brut #2 Collection Bruno Decharme" in Belgium; and "Archipelago Hervé Di Rosa. Works from MIAM – Musée International des Arts Modestes" at Portugal’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
Untitled, 2015, ballpoint pen, lead pencil, coloured pencil and watercolour on found folder, 18 x 13 in. / 46 x 33 cm
The joy that accompanies Martínez as a person is evident in his art. An ordinary day in his drawings can be translated as a cheery spectacle, full of pedestrians, street vendors, neighbours leaning out of windows, people listening to music in parks, dancing or chatting in bars – as if the chaos and tragedy of life is not relevant to them. Martínez’ drawing technique has been honed over the years. He uses perspective and vanishing points skillfully, while his figuration – with its accentuated contours – has movement and dynamism. Paper cut-outs – taken from other, already-finished drawings – are sometimes collaged into an artwork to resolve small elements of a scene, such as street lighting. He often includes curious details, such as people raising their hands in the air – possibly reflecting the gesture made by those voting for or against an issue in the local mass meetings in his home town. There is also an unbridled sensuality and mischievousness among the protagonists of Martínez’ narratives. The women often wear clothing that is revealing, transparent even, showing their legs or midriffs as they move flirtatiously through their environment. And it is not unusual to see couples kissing or touching in public, activities which Martínez depicts as completely natural to everyday life.
by YENISEL OSUNA
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #117.