Martinez often quotes historical figures who fought for racial and social justice, carrying their sentiments into the present struggles for equality. These signs deploy the visual language of commercial signage. One can imagine driving down a city street at night with the blaring neon lighting the dark. Just so, the medium that we would more likely expect to advertise a bar or restaurant subverts expectations by communicating unmistakably political messages.
The artists whose works were featured in Comunidades Visibles: The Materiality of Migration layered references from historical and contemporary sources, from different parts of the world, and from varied cultures in order to make work that speaks to their sensibilities. The hybridity of the artworks corresponds closely to the hybrid identities of their makers—Martinez’s family, for instance, is Filipino, Mexican, and Native American. These material, natural, and human histories are inexorably intertwined and complex.
Repurposing the natural textures of the city, Martinez tugs on a corner of the fabric of society, reminding those who might forget that we are connected to one another. As one sign warns, “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.”
Watch an interview with Patrick Martinez conducted by Assistant Curator Andrea Alvarez on Instagram Live from Albright-Knox Northland in spring 2021.