Martin Gutierrez, who is to kick off his first solo show at the Ryan Lee Gallery in New York on Thursday 11th is a bit more prolific than your average "rookie" of an exhibition space. This may be explained because Martin does a little of everything and has done so for quite a while now. Ranging from video to music, photography and installations this artists talent was detected early in Los Angeles and he was soon recruited by parisian labels such as Saint Laurent, Dior and ACNE Studios. Showing strong american and japanese influences, on this occasion he introduces us to "MARTIN(E)", a project that flows between sexuality, race, gender, architecture and a distinct sense of survival. Know him, its worth it.
Hi Martin, how are you? It's a pleasure to exchange words with you.
Hello METAL, I’m on cloud nine right now! This has been a big year.
You are about to hold your first show for your work. How are you handling it? Are you nervous?
Yes, this will be my first solo show in the Big Apple! Actually, I’ve been exhibiting for some time now, my first show was at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, California when I was eleven years old. I am very excited for this to come together at the Ryan Lee Gallery. It has been a great process and the gallery has been so helpful in putting me at ease.
Talk to me about "MARTIN(E)", what is the exhibition about?
A strong theme in my work is exploring self through my own transformation. The exhibition includes a collection of videos and a photo series all staring me. The photo series reference the Real Doll phenomenon; life size fetish sex dolls I enact in sixteen images. Performance art, dance and a variety of costume provide infinite possibilities. Call it drag or dress up, the play of costume is empowering. Through the curation of wardrobe and my surroundings, I question identity by manipulating my own.
About you, I see that you do a bit of everything, from video to photography, installations, performance and even your own music! Do you find this process to be much more interesting than doing collaborations with other artists to achieve that desired final work?
It really goes both ways. I love working with other artists; I cannot plan for the stroke of genius that comes from collaborating when I am working alone. Yet it is much easer for me to jump into a project by playing all the parts, rather than explaining what I want to someone else first. I think traveling between mediums has strengthened my art practice a great deal. It has made me self-sufficient in many ways, as well as hyper aware of my own presence and authenticity when on film.
By doing everything yourself, you have complete control over everything. Do you have a tough time delegating or it’s just a personal decision?
It is a personal decision; I like having complete artistic control.
On this opportunity, you work on changing the perspectives on themes like race, sexuality, gender and class. How and why?
These are all themes intrinsic to me as an individual and presented in my work. I have always thrived in that gray area that any categorization inherently confines and I do not see my art as a purely “political” statement.
Tell me about the story behind it, the architecture and the popular culture. In your work, a melancholic pursuit for survival arises, confronting our contemporary world, connected to these three things.
The Martine pt. 1-3 videos developed out of a year’s worth of footage in and around Providence, Rhode Island. Filming alone, I walked to many locations from my house, relying on natural lighting and the physical space to inform my performance. I believe it is not enough to go through the typical motions of everyday life. There are not enough moments of surprise and awe, so I create them. Responding to public spaces through performance makes the mundane into something exciting and dramatic. It is difficult for me not to respond to the architectural space. I have always been attracted to buildings that hold iconic history, especially classical architecture, but perhaps this has something to do with the fact that both my parents practice architecture and I grew up keenly aware of the built environment.
How do you see the world when you see it each day passing around you?
What an impossible question! I see the world as mostly chaotic, filled with loss and discovery, whose moments of beauty must be savored and celebrated. Each day really fluctuates for me, depending on the task at hand. If I love what I’m doing, the day is never long enough, but when nothing goes right, it seems to drag on forever...
Recently you were booked by Saint Laurent for last year’s cruise collection. Can you tell us how that happened and what exactly did you do with the brand?
It all happened so quickly… After casually sharing an unreleased song with a few friends, the music made its way to France and was part of the playlist during the filming of the 2012 Saint Laurent Cruise Collection. While I was filming my own music video, I learned that the image director for the Saint Laurent film had heard my song and wanted to use it. A few days later, I received a call from Paris; it was unreal!
You have also worked with Christian Dior and ACNE. What did you do with them?
All music, both Dior and ACNE bought original songs for collection/editorial films.
Dior will be using another song from my new EP for their 2013 eyewear campaign.
Let’s talk about your music. You are working on your next EP which should see the light this year, right?
Yes, I have been putting off the release of my EP for so long now I fear that if I wait any longer, it will forever sit on my hard drive. I just need time to write one more song and it will be finished… so I am still planning on a 2013 debut.
What’s your EP about?
It’s a very romantic collection of songs about young love and heartbreak. The music is inspired by my travels in Central America and the Caribbean, and the beach by my father’s property in Guatemala.
You are an American and your father is from Guatemala. Do you speak Spanish?
Un poco. Sadly, Spanish is my forgotten language. Growing up, my father would never speak to us in Spanish. I studied Spanish in school, but had little opportunity to speak it after moving to Vermont with my mother or during college at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Have you been in Guatemala?
Yes, I made my first trip to Guatemala with my parents as a baby and returned often throughout my childhood for family visits and to explore different parts of the country. I have truly been blessed with many opportunities to travel in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Japan and I hope to return to Guatemala in the coming year.
What do you think are some of the biggest differences between American and Latin American cultures and how do they affect your creations? Whether it’s good or bad, it must be a strong influence. What do you think?
While clichés exist, the assimilation of American culture has blurred many distinctions. American technology, clothing, music, and food have become part of the Latin American landscape while indigenous cultures are promoted for tourism. I also remember from my childhood, however, very conservative attitudes about gender. The rules and expectations were rigid regarding how boys and girls were supposed to behave and play, more so than in the U.S. While truly supportive now, my father made me feel it was wrong to play with dolls in front of him; he wanted a “macho” son. Early struggles are a part of every childhood and no doubt filter into my subconscious art making.
After your show and the EP, when you are less busy, will you visit us in Barcelona to throw a big party and have a blast?
Every excuse to improve my Spanish!! I have long waited to visit Spain, just tell me the best time of year… to party!
Thank you so much Martin and congrats.
Thank You.
Martín Gutierrez: MARTIN(E), on view at Ryan Lee, July 11 – August 16, 2013