Although he was deeply involved in Mexico City’s creative and intellectual circles from the 1940s onward, Ricardo Martínez synthesized a broader vocabulary of influences in his painting, and in developing his signature plastic style separated himself from the more ideologically driven movements around him (ranging from state-sponsored muralism to the Surrealism imported by European exiles like Wolfgang Paalen). Like many Mexican artists of his generation, he was an avid collector of pre-Columbian art. He also closely followed avant-garde movements in Europe and the United States, ranging from the psychological landscapes of Giorgio de Chirico and the architectonic figures of Henry Moore to the aching color field painting of Mark Rothko. By the mid-1970s, Martínez had fully crystallized his artistic vocabulary, in which mysterious volumetric figures emerge from clouds of atmospheric sfumato. In the present work, a seated figure leans out toward the viewer from an acidic crimson cloud; while his posture echoes seated figures made by the Colima culture of ancient Mexico and the foreshortening of his limbs recalls Mannerist figures. The immersive, vaporous veil of glowing red against the stark contrast of the rich, dark figure presents an apt comparison to Rothko’s somber works of the late 1950s (see fig. 1). Martínez’s singular mastery of color and form led him to create works that “seem to talk about a past yearned for, not as something lost, but as a promise…” (María Fernanda Matos Moctezuma, “Artistic Production, 1980-2009,” in Ricardo Martínez, a 100 años de su nacimiento, Mexico City, 2018, p. 301).
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