Narsiso Martinez, Weed Sprayer, 2020, Ink, Gouache, and Charcoal on Produce Cardboard, Beth Rudin DeWoody collection. © 2020, Narsiso Martinez.
Narsiso Martinez (b. 1977, Santa Cruz Papalutla, Oaxaca, Mexico) migrated to the US when he was 20 years old and worked for 9 years in the apple orchards of Eastern Washington to finance his education. In 2018, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting from California State University Long Beach, and was awarded the prestigious Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture. Martinez lives and works in Long Beach.
Narsiso Martinez’s drawings and mixed media installations include individual portraits and multi-figure compositions of farm laborers set against the agricultural landscapes and brand designs of grocery store produce boxes. Drawn from his own experience as a farmworker, Martinez’s work focuses on the people performing the labors that are the foundation of our food systems—filling produce sections and restaurant kitchens around the country. Martinez’s portraits of farmworkers build on the materiality of working in the fields with earth-like charcoal drawn across reclaimed boxes.
Martinez combines portrait and landscape, moving away from traditional American landscapes of vast land ownership or of the settler’s fantasy West, instead creating Critical Landscapes that prompt unsettling questions about ownership, asking the viewer to think about the relationship between land, labor, and power. In the tradition of Social Realism, his images reframe power in the hands of the workers. The subjects of his portraits are the main characters, upfront in a single portrait or in the foreground of a larger landscape focusing on the humanity of farmworkers and daily life working in the fields.
In this exhibition we see artwork that spans eight years of Martinez’s art production from 2014 to 2022, with two newly added commissioned works created from a residency visiting communities in the Central Valley.