Through formally painted portraits, Patrick Martinez sheds light on past and current civil rights leaders who would historically be left in the shadows. These portraits are found atop realistically depicted three-dimensional cakes, embodying the celebratory tone that Martinez wishes to portray. Through a study of the lack of diverse representation in historical portrait painting, a medium traditionally used to celebrate ones successes and wealth, Martinez was led to the portrait cake paintings. The cake acts as a globally and socio-economically understood medium of celebration, now featuring the faces of not only white historical figures but the faces of freedom fighters of all races. This series was first inspired by a video of Tupac’s last birthday, which included a cake frosted with his portrait that did not resemble him in the slightest. The cake paintings feature the likes of Angela Davis, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X, and include even lesser known freedom fighters such as Larry Itliong of the Philippines paying respect to Martinez’s mother’s birthplace. Martinez also works with the insignias of civil rights activist groups, such as the Black Panther Party in his piece titled Chocolate Cake for the Black Panther Party. That Which We Do Not See will be on view through April 20 at Fort Gansevoort 5 Ninth Avenue, New York. photographs courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York.
Sculpture, text and landscape come together to form an important new American Civil Rights memorial. The I AM A MAN Plaza, designed by Cliff Garten, is a large-scale experiential public sculpture commissioned to pay tribute to the members of the pivotal 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Garten and his studio led a design team with Memphis-based landscape architect John Jackson of JPA, Inc. for the 54,000-square-foot memorial plaza. As part of Garten’s plan, spoken word artist Steven Fox held an open dialogue with the greater Memphis community, who through a series of public workshops organized by the UrbanArt Commission, selected pertinent historical text and created an original contemporary text which is etched into the marble gates to the plaza’s entry. The texts combine as a meditation on America’s struggle and progress with racism and class inequity since the sanitation workers and Dr. Martin Luther King took their historic stand in Memphis. Present at the ribbon cutting were Reverend James Lawson, Cliff Garten, Congressman Steven Cohen, Bill Lucy, Elmore Nickleberry and many of the original sanitation workers who went on strike 50 years ago. Elmore Nickleberry has been a sanitation worker in the city of Memphis for 63 consecutive years. photographs by Lisa Buser
MOCA presents a 35-year retrospective of painter Kerry James Marshall, co-organized by the MCA Chicago, MOCA, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art under the leadership of MOCA’s Chief Curator Helen Molesworth. Marshall’s figurative paintings have been joyful in their consistent portrayal of African Americans. The now nearly 600 year history of painting contains remarkably few African American painters and even fewer representations of black people. Marshall, a child of the civil rights era, set out to redress this absence. “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters,” Marshall has said, “and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it. That determined a lot of where my work was going to go…” Kerry James Marshall "Mastry" will be on view from March 12 to July 3, 2017 at MoCA in Los Angeles. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper