About César A. Martínez'

El pantalón rosa


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 if anything?

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, even daunting.

Printmaking Lesson Index

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 Austin, Texas.

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

SENSORY ELEMENTS: 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.


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 and look.

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 made?

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.


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, Austin,Texas (1987).

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].


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 Jiménez. Judith Francisca Baca, known primarily for her murals, has depicted some barrio types as well, notably her Las tres Marías (1976, mixed media).

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.