May 3-Aug. 1, 2012
Gabriel Martinez is interested in the social dynamics of public spaces, making his site-specific installation Recognition a perfect fit for Window into Houston, a public art project founded by Blaffer Art Museum in the spring of 2011. Martinez’s art primarily exists outside the gallery environment and takes the form of interventions in sites as varied as public seating, city water drainage, unused plots of land, parks, bootleg markets, and sidewalks. For Martinez, what connects these spaces is the fact that they are occupied and used by many different types of audiences, none of which will experience his work in the same way. As a result, the broad and often unnoticed structures that regulate social behavior and determine public access are opened up for contestation and potential change.
To realize Recognition, Martinez helped himself to a disposable camera at one of the world’s largest chain retail conglomerates with which he took close-up photographs of clothing for sale and then processed the film at the store’s one-hour photo department. The resulting images form the background for Martinez’s musings on the history of sidewalks, commerce, window display, and the role consumer desire plays in shaping the behavioral codes of public engagement. The text combines original writing by the artist with citations from critically relevant sources on these topics. By presenting these notations as footnotes, Martinez draws attention to the contextual conditions of the piece that are as important as its aesthetic manifestation. While research is a central part of many an artist’s practice, for Martinez it is as essential as the aesthetic object created in the process. In Recognition, Martinez superimposes texts and images to highlight the fact that, while often unread or unseen, crucial information is hidden in the fringes and deserves our attention.