Leslie Martinez. The Decorum of this Body. 2023. Acrylic, painting rags, studio clothes, dried paint chips, charcoal, coarse sawdust, pumice on canvas, 60 × 75 × 8″ (152 × 191 × 20 cm). Courtesy Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Paul Salveson
MoMA PS1 will present the first New York museum exhibition of artist Leslie Martinez (b. 1985, McAllen, Texas). On view from November 16, 2023 through April 2024, the presentation will debut new and recent works by Martinez, who lived in New York City for fifteen years before returning to Texas in 2019. The exhibition showcases a selection of paintings that range in scale and burst with color, alongside a new series that explores the politics and poetics of the color gray as a boundless state of possibility.
Using a cosmic palette based on the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) color model, Martinez dyes and pleats canvases of pooled paint, an approach that explores place and ancestry in relation to the handmade and draws on formal legacies of abstraction. Born in the Rio Grande Valley near the US-Mexico border, Martinez wields an embodied way of painting that resists colonial notions of “good taste” and instead embraces the concept of rasquachismo, a resourcefulness embraced out of necessity. Martinez builds on and celebrates generational practices of survival and sustenance learned from their family—who have lived in Texas for generations and worked as farmers, ranchers, seamstresses, and construction workers—by implicating their labor and pride in craft through corporeal paintings brimming with gestural mark making.
Both alluring and abject, the works incorporate remains from the studio—including rags and dried acrylics—combining a no-waste approach with methodologies of rasquachismo. Transforming common and often discarded objects into dynamic compositions, Martinez’s paintings reject disposability and invoke a politics of care—one that embraces histories of painting, labor, queerness, and refusal—defying borders and categorization.
Leslie Martinez (b. 1985, McAllen, Texas) received an MFA from Yale University in 2018 and a BFA from The Cooper Union in 2008. They have had solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2023), Blaffer Art Museum, Houston (2023) and And Now, Dallas (2021, 2020). Martinez has participated in residencies at venues including Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson (2019) and is a recipient of the United States Latinx Art Forum’s Latinx Artist Fellowship (2022). Their work is in the collections of Dallas Museum of Art; Pérez Art Museum Miami; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and Speed Art Museum, Louisville.
The exhibition is organized by Elena Ketelsen González, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1.
Support is provided by Kate and Ajay Agarwal, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Broughton, Kevin Del Colle, and Carlos Marsano.
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