Latinos on the Rise: Art Basel's Patrick Martinez, Creating Work You Can Relate To

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As Art Basel buzzes in Miami, I thought it only right that this week’s column profile a young visual artist. I didn’t have to look any further than Patrick Martinez--dubbed by the folks at the SCOPE Miami 2012 art show (partnering with Vh1), designated as one of SCOPE’s “Artists On The Rise”.

With parts Filipino, Mexican, and Native American, and born and raised in Los Angeles, Martinez uses his culture and the downtown neighborhoods of LA as his primary sources of inspiration. In his whimsical but edgy mixed mediums of neon-lit sculptures and paintings, he often flips and re-arranges everyday words seen on common street and store signs into more witty and thought provoking ones. His work invites people to engage in conversation.  Incorporating popular culture with Latin and Hip Hop music, the 31-year-old re-invents images to evoke new meanings; hoping to make as he says, “the familiar new”.  

A graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, he was awarded the honor of presenting his work at the SCOPE show after the art committee contacted Dallas gallery owner Dustin Orlando of Circuit 12 Contemporary, who represents Martinez’s work. “They where already familiar with some of my work and Dustin showed them my whole body of work. Scope and Vh1 told us they where interested in a few pieces, but ultimately wanted the "Garden Thug Water Fountain" piece for the Vh1 garden lounge... It was a perfect fit,” Martinez says.

The giant “statue-instillation” piece Martinez will present at the SCOPE show is a huge life size “man”, built in bronze, clear resin, swarovski crystal and flowers. It’s a still life of an archetype “thug”, as he describes it--a “kitschy” characterization.

Martinez has only been selling his work for the last five years. Through group and solo shows, recently he’s been able to get his art into the right hands--collectors.

“My inspiration comes from everywhere. Driving on the freeway, photos, in the shower. I love to get excited about an idea and then take it and turn it into work. Eventually I put it out there, share the love, and see how people respond.  It’s an ongoing process of pushing myself. I produce for myself first. I get a high from the idea to the sketch to the physical object,” Martinez says.

I asked Martinez why he believes he’s been so successful so quickly. He tells me, slightly unwillingly, how much he has recently sold his work for, compared to when he first began.  In 2008, his first piece sold for around $800, and has slowly crept up to $1600.  Today, collectors commission him for his one-of-a-kind pieces and prices start at $3,000--Martinez’s SCOPE sculpture is selling for $40K.

He explains that he thinks his work has achieved some notoriety because it connects with people. “People feel it’s accessible, complex but it still invites. It’s like a kiss on the cheek and a punch to the gut all at the same time.  It’s not elitist, but relatable,” Martinez says.

Famed LA Street and tattoo artist Mister Cartoon, known for inking the skin of celebs like Beyonce, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, and others, says of Martinez’s work,

“Patrick has a style of his own and paints real pages from his life reflecting the streets of LA.”

With artists, only time will tell, but for now anyway it appears Martinez won’t have to wait to be recognized posthumously. Thanks to SCOPE and Vh1, his work is in front of many of the most important art people worldwide--right here in Miami during Art Basel.

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.