Magazine article Artforum International

Antonio Martorell

Magazine article Artforum International

Antonio Martorell

Article excerpt

Deftly negotiating Puerto Rican cultural traditions, ambitious political issues, literary references, and personal experiences, Antonio Martorell examined how the textures of regional conditions and individual expectations construct our notion of "home." His eclectic, often personal installations were scattered through the rooms of the museum in a circuitous path of mystery and revelation.

Educated in graphic design, printmaking, and performance, Martorell uses an alchemic mix of these traditions in his work. At first some of the pieces seemed overly dependent on particular incidents in the artist's life--too personal to resonate beyond the idiosyncratic and autobiographical. But inevitably the images, symbols, and materials provided other points of access.

"La Casa De Todos Nosotros" (A house for us all) fulfilled the bright promise of its title. These welcoming, engaging installations evoked both the comforts and conflicts of home, offering an image of it that is intrinsic to most cultures. With few exceptions, Martorell's installations employed archetypal forms, outlining walls, doors, and windows within the shadows cast by structures resembling traditional roofs.

Casa Singer (Singer house, 1991) originated in the artist's childhood recollections of his family's eviction from their home. The walls were made of translucent tissue-paper sewing patterns. Both interior and exterior were adorned with sewing paraphernalia--beads, sequins, ribbons, and other colorful objects. At the center a sewing machine was set on an enormous velvet pincushion, the symbolic hearth of Martorell's boyhood home. The repeated movements and familiar sounds, the folds of cloth passing beneath the pulsing needle, and the sight of both ordinary and extravagant creations formed the edges of vivid but incomplete memories.

In contrast to the dense, tactile projects influenced by personal narratives, La Casa Verde (The green house, 1991) was an austerely edited version of home. …

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