About César A. Martínez'
El pantalón rosa
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different
from the original artwork?
The image on the computer is a digitized image. The original is the
45th of 124 hand-pulled lithographs. The original print is 35" high
x 22 1/2" wide and printed on thick, acid-free paper.
The original was financed by Galería Sin Fronteras, 1701 Guadalupe,
Austin, Texas 78701 (512-478-9448), a prominent Chicano/Latino art gallery,
proprietor University of Texas Professor Gilberto Cárdenas, which
has a long history of financing and promoting Chicano art.
The original is a second state or version of an earlier lithograph by
the same artist and with the same title, El pantalón rosa,
[English transl. The Pink Pants], dimensions 34 1/2" x 23", which
was produced in 1982 In turn, this lithograph was based on an acrylic painting
on canvas with the same title, 1984, 60" x 50." The painting
achieved considerable recognition for having won the grand prize of the
Canadian Club Hispanic Art Tour, 1984. As a result César Martínez
received a $5,000 cash award and the opportunity to donate another $5,000
to the art school or art center of his choice. His selection was the Guadalupe
Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, Texas.
There are moderate differences between the second state print featured
in this project and the first state lithograph and the acrylic painting.
These differences are primarily related to the color scheme. In the painting
the man wears a black shirt and a blue vest. In the first lithograph the
man wears a powder blue knit vest and a dark striped shirt, as constrasted
with the lithograph featured in this project where he wears a black and
green striped shirt and a tan, knit vest. The background of the painting
is primarily a tannish-yellow with a dark textured top that is reminiscent
of a wooden beam as in a Santa Fe style house. The first print has a pea-green
colorfield, above which is a blue and cream textured horizontal top space.
The second state has a textured sienna background with a green and creamy
horizontal top space.
CONDITION: What can I learn about the condition of the artwork?
The lithographic print is in excellent condition.
SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts
The print depicts a Pachuco-type Chicano, also called a vato, in
full frontal pose. He is wearing eyeglasses and is dressed in a striped,
watermelon green and black shirt, with a thin, brown knit vest and pink
pants that prominently displays stitching at the waist, the belt loops
and down the front. His shirt, featuring wide lapels, is buttoned to the
topmost button, Pachuco style. He wears a narrow, dark belt. His dark eye
glasses partially obscure his eyes, the pupils of which can not be detected.
He appears to be posing for his portrait. The figure in the foreground
stands against an abstract, textured sienna background above which is a
horizontal green and cream textured field.
The figure is solemn, emotionless, and appears to be somewhat unapproachable,
|TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can
I learn about how the artwork was made?
The print is No. 45 of an edition of 124. The artist made 9 separate
drawings on aluminum plates, one for each color. The lithograph was produced
through Strike Editions, master printer, Peter Webb, which is located in
Peter Webb inked each plate, placed heavy, acid-free paper over the
plate, and ran the plate through a press. He repeated this process 9 times
with each print (once for each color) in order to make the final print.
Sensory Lesson Index
What visual elements do you see?
The figure appears flattened and isolated on the canvas against an abstract,
textured color field so that there is little sense of perspective. The
effect is to heighten the analytic quality of the work, so that the figure
appears to be under intense scrutiny, appropriate of a close-up. At the
same time, the unusual dress of the figure and the somberness of the figure's
visage endows it with emotional intensity and tension and a sense of inscrutableness.
The static quality of the figure is so heightened that it appears that
it might suddenly spring into unexpected and disconcerting action. The
bright but stark and crisp color contrasts of the work cause the figure
to stand out against an unidentifiable and unfamiliar background, as if
the figure were being singled out for study.
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?
There is a strong formal contrast between the color scheme of the figure
(the striped shirt, the pink pants, the other features of sartorial detail),
and the textured but abstract, negative space of the background. Similarly,
the vertical linear scheme of the figure, heightened by the striped shirt
and the undulating vertical lines of the vest, both contrasts with the
belt of the pink pants which (together with the figure's head) has the
most prominent place in the composition. The prominence and immediacy of
the figure is accomplished primarily on the basis of its size, because
the sense of space has purposively been diminished. The colors are combined
in an original and unusual but subtle fashion, the pink contrasting with
black and watermelon green, which in turn contrasts notably with the sienna
portion of the background. Primary colors have been avoided, thus heightening
the mysteriousness of the figure and the sense that it is out of phase
with every day, predictable life.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER
César Augusto Martínez is a product of the border culture
of South Texas, including both the small town of the region such as Laredo
and Kingsville and the major metropolitan area of San Antonio. Both of
his parents were born in Northern Mexico and came to Texas as children
with their families, in the years after the Mexican Revolution. César
was born in Laredo, Texas in 1944. His father died before he was a year
old and he was brought up by his mother, who held clerical and sales jobs,
eventually working as a drugstore cashier until her retirement in the mid
1970s, and by his grandmother and his mother's two unmarried sisters.
During his youth, Martínez was very influenced by bullfighting
and crossed the border frequently as a teenager to go to the bullfights
in Nuevo Laredo, and for a few years he trained to become a Matador. The
depiction of the bull, the bullfight, and the image of the minotaur have
been a constant element in Martínez's work, occasionally harkening
back to the work of Goya and Picasso.
Upon graduating from public high school in Laredo in 1962, he took courses
for two years at Laredo Junior College and then transferred to Texas Arts
and Industries University in Kingsville, where he graduated with an art
major in 1968.
Soon after graduation, Martínez was drafted into the army (summer
of 1969), and served eventually with a medical battalion in Korea. In Asia
he began to take up photography, which became one of his artistic activities
after being discharged in 1971, returning to Texas, and settling in San
Antonio, where he lives currently.
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
El pantalón rosa and other paintings and lithographs of
the "Los Vatos" series by César Martínez are intended
to both document the image of the vato or Pachuco from within Chicano
culture, as constrasted to the image projected by the media of the outside,
Anglo-dominant society. In so doing, Martínez explains that his
portraits, while faithful to the features of the models, often are painted
with expressionistic and somewhat extravagant colors, with the goal of
forcing the viewer out of strict racial stereotypes and instead concentrating
on the essential humanity of the subject rather than on the subject's skin
color. (Comments by César Martínez at a talk he gave at the
"Cuatro Caminos" exhibition, Southwest Texas State University,
San Marcos, September 1979.)
The lithograph, by virtue of the totally frontal pose and minimalist
use of detail (details are almost exclusively in support of the figure's
garb which are essential to his identity as a vato), has the effect
of confronting the viewer and by extension, all of society. This element
of extreme difference, passive defiance, confrontation with the outside,
particularly the viewer, is also heightened by the use of the sunglasses
so that the subject appears masked, expressionless, unrevealing of his
interior self. Thus part of the effect is a probable sense of perturbation
by the viewer who is confronted with the fixed and somewhat mysterious
gaze of the vato.
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed,
or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
The work reflects the emergence of a type of personage dating from as
early as the zoot suiter and the Zoot Suit Riots (in 1943 in Los Angeles,
San Diego, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit), when gangs of U.S. servicemen
attacked Mexican Americans who reacted with a heightened self-consciousness
of their marginalized situation in American society. This social type of
the Pachuco or vato which emerged during World War II, reflected
the increased urbanization of Chicano society, which formerly had primarily
been rural. Now many Chicanos had become part of the urban working-class
with consequent changes in family structure, and housing patterns. The
Pachuco reflects barrio life which emerged during the War and which
continues through today.
The Chicano movement took on a new militancy in the 1960s and 1970s
as part of the general Civil Rights movement. As a result, some young Chicanos
began to adapt the dress of the earlier zoot suiters, call themselves vatos
or pachucos, join gangs, and engage in a variety of acts of political
and social defiance, both productive and self-defeating, ranging from the
political organizing of the Brown Berets, to lowriding events with customized
automobiles, to engaging in gang warfare.
The individual in El pantalón rosa is depicted as one
of the vatos or pachucos of the 1970s or 1980s, primarily
an urban-dwelling member of the Chicano gang subculture. The vato,
somewhat alienated from mainstream American culture, sets a premium on
his separateness, his posture of social defiance, and his unique dress
El pantalón rosa is a 1980s example of the attempt on
the part of Chicanos to "recover" their history and their culture.
Pachucos were and are an important part of Chicano culture, a part that
celebrates a posture of radical difference from and conflict with (in dress
and behavior) mainstream American culture. Part of the recovery of the
image of the Pachuco that César Martínez engages in is a
demythologizing of the type. César Martínez analyzes how
the Pachuco makes a cultural affirmation through the transgression
of both mainstream Anglo culture and traditional, Chicano culture through
the way that this social type uses the language of the body, gesture, hair,
tattoo, dress and dance, elaboration and decoration of automobiles, and
use of a hybrid English-Spanish language of caló.
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and
activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was
During the period that César Martínez attended college,
Texas A & I was in the process of educating a group of Chicana and
Chicano artists including Amado Maurilio Peña (now primarily recognized
as an American Indian artist), Carmen Lomas Garza, and Martínez
himself who were to become among the most significant and recognized in
the United States. During the period César Martínez took
courses with Carmen Lomas Garza and Amado Peña as his classmates.
In San Antonio, Martínez was one of the founders of the important
Chicano periodical of the 1970s, Caracol, for which he served as
photographer, designer, and occasional columnist. He also joined the groups,
Con Safos, one of the first Chicano visual arts organizations, founded
in San Antonio by the artists Mel Casas and Felipe Reyes; and Los Quemados,
which he cofounded with Carmen Lomas Garza and Amado Peña. Currently,
Martínez no longer does art photography but dedicates himself to
painting and lithography.
This region of Texas not only produced major artists but writers as
well including Rolando Hinojosa, Estela Portillo Trambley, Tomás
Rivera, and Carmen Tafolla, all of whom, to a greater or lesser degree,
have depicted Chicano barrio and community life, and the social
types that populate this environment.
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork
to look the way it does?
"In this series of paintngs of Pachuco types, I treat them both
as individuals and as a social phenomenon. Through this approach, I can
explore a range of human attitudes within a social context and perhaps
give a more accurate perspective than what popular culture can provide."
Statement of César A. Martínez about the 1984 painting, "El
pantalón rosa," in The Canadian Club Hispanic Art Tour 1984
(El Museo del Barrio--New York, San Antonio Museum of Art, Plaza de
La Raza--Los Angeles), catalog, 1984, n.p.
In an interview with Martínez in the film documentary, Dale
Kranque (1982), Martínez affirmed that the principal objective
of his "Los Vatos" series of which El pantalón rosa
is a part, was to document the Pachuco or the vato as a "countercultural
personage." He went on to say that the documentation that existed
prior to his series was insufficient, primarily consisting of family photographs
and media articles of the dominating Anglo society, usually based on conflicts
such as the 1943 Zoot Suit riots.
Viewer Lesson Index
|ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine
about how the viewer, patron, or user undertstood the artwork?
El pantalón rosa is representative of an important new
development and direction in Chicana and Chicano art. Emerging out of the
1960s Civil Rights movement, the first manifestations of Chicano art were
primarily political, including, for example, the unionizing and boycotting
activities of the United Farmworkers, political action in various communities
including the creation of the Raza Unida party (an alternative party with
a separatist bent founded in Texas) and militant protest activities on
college campuses and other social institutions. The primary forms for communicating
these themes were the mural and the poster. Both of these art forms lent
themselves to communicating to large numbers of people, the former assuming
functions similar to large outdoor billboards (but here not used for commerical
purposes), and the latter permitting mass duplication and distribution
on economical terms.
César Martínez, together with his distinguished South
Texas associates, Carmen Lomas Garza and Amado Maurilio Peña were
early cultivators of multiple original art in the form of lithographs and
silk screens (also called serigraphs); these art forms are more closely
associated with exhibition in galleries and museums. In fact, César
Martínez, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Amado Maurilio Peña were
among the first Chicano artists to support themselves primarily on the
basis of the sale of their art rather than on other jobs such as teaching.
The actuality of artists supporting themselves partially through the sale
of lithographs, produced in lots of 25-150 multiple originals and priced
in a range of $250 to $1,500 dollars, is a good index of the increased
economic resources of the Chicano community. While such art would be out
of the economic reach of most of the barrio types that César Martínez
depicts, it has been favored by Chicano/Latino professionals, who represent
the primary market for his works, and secondarily by the wider mainstream
art market of both museums, corporate and non-profit organization collections,
and individual Anglo collectors.
César Martínez's work has been exhibited at numerous museums
and galleries. He has been included in group exhibitions such as: "Los
Quemados," Instituto Cultural Mexicano, San Antonio (1975), "Images
of the Southwest," Galería de la Raza, San Francisco, "Ancient
Roots/New Visions, " Tucson Museum of Art and tour (1977-1979), "Dale
Gas: Chicano Art of Texas," Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1977),
"Quinta Bienal del Grabado Latinoamericano," Instituto de cultura
puerrtorriqueña, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1981), "A Través
de la Frontera," Centro de Estudios Económicos y Sociales del
Tercer Mundo, Mexico City (1983), "Showdown," The Alternative
Museum, New York (1983), "Frente a Frente," Festival Internacional
de la Raza, Centro Cultural Tijuana, Tijuana, Mexico (1984), "¡Mira!,"
Museo del Barrio, New York (1984), "The Printed Image," Guadalupe
Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, Texas (1985), "Chicano Expressions,
"Intar Latin American Gallery, New York (1986); "Significant
Contributions," Mexicarte, Austin, Texas (1986), "Chulas Fronteras,"
Midtown Art Center, Houston and Tour (1986), "Hispanic Art in the
United States, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1987), "Pintores Chicanos,"
Palacio de Minería, Mexico City (1988), and "There's a Chicano
in There Somewhere," Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio (1988).
He had two-person exhibitions at the Frank C. Smith Fine Arts Center, Texas
Arts and Industries University, Kingsville, wih Carmen Lomas Garza (1978)
and with Tina Fuentes at the J. Cacciola Galleries, New York. He has had
solo exhibitions at the Xochil Gallery, Mission, Texas (1978), the Dagen
Bela Gallery, (San Antonio) 1980, and the Galería Sin Fronteras,
CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood
within the culture in which it was made?
El pantalón rosa is part of a series of lithographs and
paintings called "Los Vatos" that César Martínez
undertook beginning in 1978. Charles Richard Carlisle has observed about
"Los Vatos": "This series of works, produced in large dimensions,
represents an important line of work within the development of Chicano
art since, in addition to depicting Chicana and Chicano youth of the barrios
during the 1940s and 1950s (the documentary aspect of the work), they constitute
a reaffirmation of sense of the artist himself and the sense of identity
of all Chicanos confronted by the dominant Anglo society of the United
States." Charles Richard Carlisle, "Aquel Carnal que uno lleva
bien adentro: Los vatos de César Augusto Martínez,"
in Los artistas chicanos del valle de Tejas: Narradores de mitos y tradiciones,
Catalog of the VII Festival Internacional de la Raza, 1991, Tijuana, Baja
California, México and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, México,
pp. 38-43 [Translation into English by Gary Keller Cárdenas].
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
César Martínez is one of the foremost painters of barrio
characters, together with John Valadez and Daniel Gálvez. However,
the latter two artists are photorealists who work primarily in pastel to
create detailed renderings of barrio life, while Martínez's
work, with its flattened figures against abstract colorfield backgrounds
and minimalist use of detail highlights the essential character of defiance
among his subjects. The depiction of barrio characters is also cultivated
by a number of other artists including Gilbert
"Magú" Luján, José Montoya, known for
his Pachuco series of ink on paper, and Luis
Francisca Baca, known primarily for her murals, has depicted some barrio
types as well, notably her Las tres Marías (1976, mixed
INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this
artwork or about whether this artowrk influenced later artworks?
In Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, ed. Richard
Griswold del Castillo and others, p. 352, Martínez has affirmed
his affiliation with the artists of the "Movimiento generation"
of the 1960s and 1970s, although he strongly rejects "politically
correct posturing" in favor of "realistic political strategies."
His work shows affinities with other movement artists such as Gilbert "Magú"
Luján and Frank Romero.
THEMES: What general ideas connect this artwork to other artworks?
The barrio type and the culture of the barrio are at the
heart of El pantalón rosa. The primary theme is the changes
in social behaviors and dress that reflect the urbanization and ghettoization
(into barrios) of a formerly rural population which now consists
primarily of working-class city dwellers.
This theme is also a prominent one in Chicano literature. In literature,
the celebrated fiction writer, Rolando Hinojosa is best-known for his barrio
characters. The performance artist, Guillermo Gómez-Peña
also touches on this theme.