Country Club Gardens (2007) by Melvin MartínezMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico
Melvin Martínez (b. San Juan, Puerto Rico 1976) is a Puerto Rican painter deeply invested in the history and materiality of his medium, producing mixed media paintings, as well as sculptures and installations about painting itself.
Jardines de Country Club
The painting is titled after a housing complex built in 1965 in the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico. Jardines de Country Club, or Country Club Gardens, was an extension of the urban development called Country Club that sold middle class upward mobility dreams.
"Buy where buying first is worth money!" went a popular advertisement for the properties that was accompanied by a photo of the reigning Miss Puerto Rico 1965. "Your house, in addition to providing security for your loved ones, is also an important investment," it said.
These dramatic compositions full of lights, rhythms and textures dialogue more with the protagonists of the New York School than with other abstract painters from Puerto Rico.
Martínez references the optics of Pointillism, the anarchy of Abstract Expressionism, the resplendence of Color Field painting and the embodied summons of gestural abstraction.
Painterly brushstrokes come together with cake decorating tools to create the textured surface of the painting, giving it a tactile quality. You can also almost taste the frosting-like applications.
Patches of glitter, stenciled decorative motifs, geometric shapes, lines and dripping spray paint complete the composition.
Martínez's work engages with kitsch and pop via his use of materials and their applications. Some works might even seem decadent in their lushness.
The surface of this large-scale canvas appears frosted, at once irresistible and grotesque. More than a formal exercise, Jardines de Country Club establishes a link between the aesthetics of the painting and the aspirations of mid-century middle class Puerto Ricans.