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A Cuban Carnival: Alain Martinez at The Chambers Gallery

LONDON.-The Chambers Gallery presents A Cuban Carnival: Alain Martinez: 7th March to 4th April. Alain Martinez is a young Cuban artist living and working in Bejucal, a small town in Havana province. His works have been shown in exhibitions in Chile, Germany and Spain. Recently, he took part in an exhibition in Havana in support of ‘World Aids Day’: CuidArte: Erotic Art, where his work was shown alongside that of other well-known Cuban artists, including Adigio Benitez, Roberto Fabelo, Nelson Dominguez, Choco, and Arturo Montoto.

Alain’s art is firmly rooted in the artistic traditions of Latin America – of Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. He absorbed European expressionism and recreated it in the context of local tradition. In doing so, he followed the path of Latin America’s leading painters, including the great Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam.

In the early decades of the 20th century, expressionism was adopted with enthusiasm by nationalist-minded artists who quickly realised that it could be fused with local ‘Indian’ culture to create a new Latin American art-form. The 1920s and 1930s, in particular, saw the flowering of this indigenismo. Soon, Latin expressionism – often leaning towards surrealism – became the leading art form throughout the continent.

Alain Martinez continues to work within this tradition.

During the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people of Cuba experienced severe hardships – economic and social – which were reflected in the work of Cuban artists. Many of them, including some of the most prominent, left the country and achieved success abroad. A new generation came to the fore as the economy recovered, but their art had changed, influenced by international trends such as conceptualism. Alain, however, working in Bejucal, pursued his own path.

Alain’s paintings exude a passion unusual even for Cuban art. At first you see the flamboyant colour, the festive dance. Then the darker mood emerges, the despair, the furtive sexual longings. Key to these paintings is the mask motif, the disguise. It tells you that nothing here is what it seems. A critic writing in El Habanero of Martinez’s solo exhibition in Cuba last October, remarked on his “figurative expressionism” and his “extraordinary dramatic force”.

Many of his pictures suggest a narrative, but he insists that he doesn’t tell stories. “My paintings are moments, ephemeral situations that were significant for me. But I'd rather not tell a story – maybe just insinuate it. I'm pleased if some of my memories are framed and hanging from the wall, subject to whatever interpretations they might suggest.”

This exhibition is the first showing of Martinez’s work in the UK. The artist will be coming to London from Cubaand will be available for interviews.

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