Patrick Martinez: American Memorial

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College presents "American Memorial" by Patrick Martinez on view May 25 to September 10, 2017.

Patrick Martinez: American Memorial opens to the public on May 25, 2017. In Martinez’s work, memorials take myriad forms. The act of mourning offers an opportunity to express pain and to demonstrate respect. In public, mourning can function as a political protest, a defiant act, and ultimately an expression of love. Memorials exist as material manifestations of mourning. For Martinez, memorials are found in daily life and rendered in paint, neon, and with re-purposed school folders.

Then They Came For Me, 2016
Neon, 20 1/2 x 26 in., from the collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Gift of Susan and Bob Battaglia and Margie Pabst Steinmetz and Chuck Steinmetz, 2017.7
Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery

Hip Hop culture and graffiti served as early influences for the artist. Martinez remains in tune with popular culture and is deeply concerned with current events. With his neons, the artist re-imagines texts that reflect hard realities, truths, and embody struggle and fear. These words become amplified and reverberate in our collective consciousness. For example, in Free 99 (Hold Ya Head), Martinez uses the lyrics of the deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, “Currency means nothin’ if you still ain’t free.” The artist often employs deceptively playful materials like neon and draws from popular sources like rap music to produce deeply poignant and timely work. His neon, Then They Came For Me, haunts as a reminder of the fragility of personal safety and of a just society. While the phrase is steeped in history, it resonates today. “Patrick Martinez’s art is both timely and consequential; his works offer a nuanced, yet forceful commentary on contemporary society. As the dialogue they spark is particularly welcome on a campus, we are delighted to organize this exhibition—his first solo show in a museum,” states Cornell Fine Arts Museum director Ena Heller, PhD.

Po-lice Misconduct Misprint (natural yellow), 2016
Pigment print on paper-double-sided, 12 x 9 in., from the collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Anonymous donation, 2016.17.1
Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery

In other recent works inspired by Pee Chee school folders, Martinez creates complex portrayals of people who too often are depicted without respect and dignity. More specifically, the artist presents people of color who are victims of excessive force and police brutality. His early success as an illustrator and designer for record labels enables his multilayered subversion of traditional school folders.

American Memorial, 2016
Ceramic, acrylic, and stucco on panel, 60 x 60 in., from the collection of Dr. David Rosenberg and Dr. Jessica Lattman
Image courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery

A number of paintings in the show such as American Memorial pay tribute to floral memorials. The ubiquitous use of flowers to commemorate loss or, in some cases, the intervention of flowers in daily life that inspire a meditation on the meaning of beauty emanate from these works. With a colorful palette, the artist leverages buoyant aesthetics. The works feel both celebratory and subversive in their examination of individual and communal pain.


Born in 1980, Martinez lives and works in Los Angeles, California. His work was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times and in group exhibitions at the Museum of Latin American Art and the Vincent Price Museum. The permanent collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum includes five works by the artist. This exhibition marks the artist’s first solo presentation at a museum.

Related programming 
Free and open to the public

Friday, May 26, 11 am | Exhibition Tour
Curator Amy Galpin, Ph.D.

Friday, August 25, 11 am | Exhibition Tour
Curator Amy Galpin, Ph.D.

Tuesday, August 29, 6 pm | Conversation
Themes of Racial Injustice and Student/Youth Rights
Charlo Richardson, President of Central Florida Chapter of the ACLU

Tuesday, September 5, 6 pm | Artist's Talk
Patrick Martinez 


Set on the Rollins College campus overlooking beautiful Lake Virginia, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum is the only teaching museum in the greater Orlando area. Its broad scope holdings of more than 5,500 objects range from antiquity through contemporary and include the only European Old Masters collection in the Orlando area, a sizable American art collection, and the forward-looking Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art. The Alfond Collection is shown both at the Museum and The Alfond Inn at Rollins a few blocks from campus, a visionary philanthropic boutique hotel whose proceeds help fund student scholarships. For additional information, call 407.646.2526 or visit "Like" CFAM on Facebook and follow on Instagram @cfamrollins as well as Twitter @cfamrollins.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum offers FREE ADMISSION courtesy of Dale Montgomery ’60.

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