Charlie James Gallery
December 11, 2021 – January 22, 2022
Martinez’ current body of work (all created in 2021) makes use of discarded produce boxes whose brandings are used as narrative to depict the harvesting of particular fruits and vegetables. Painted over these backdrops are vulnerable subjects who are brought to life through a variety of mediums including gouache, ink, charcoal, and acrylic.
Banana Man showcases a life-sized man standing before a background made from more than a dozen flattened Dole banana boxes. Banana in hand, he appears stoic, while the iconic fruit logos bleed through his partially transparent form, symbolizing consumerism made possible by the literal fruits of an underappreciated labor force, the men behind it remaining unknowable.
In Too Cool, a masked form in black and white is rendered into flat Gourmet Asparagus boxes; hooked to his waist belt is a large box of the freshly picked vegetable of the same brand, seemingly jutting out at the viewer.
These multi-media works certainly shed light on the souls who are essentially responsible for providing the luxury of fresh foods that we have become accustomed to in America, yet are often taken for granted. The farmworkers’ faces, much like those of their contributions to society, are shown obscured, except for earnest eyes that peer out from masks and visored hats.
We can almost feel the heat beating upon the worn shoulders of the subject in Fruit Catcher, who is framed within a luminous, gold painted box. Here, a young man in beige tones takes a moment to tip his hat at the viewer, eyes squinting through the sun’s relentless rays.
The exhibit is made especially palatable through several fascinating multi-media installations, namely Pacific Gold, positioned center stage. The large sculpture is made up of produce boxes stacked high atop a wooden crate, the sides brought to life by Martinez’ deft painterly touch.
As if to impart a message of optimism, a Village Farms box reveals an intimate scene of three girls on a porch staircase leaning against the railing with eager smiles. Cast behind them are shadows in opaque gold, with outlines of their future selves in graduation attire. In the right-hand corner is the title, For a Brighter Future, a nod to Martinez’ own story of success achieved through vision, endurance and a gift for bringing his unnamed, yet valiant, subjects to life.
Cover image: To a Brighter Future; images courtesy of ofstudio.