Welcome back to WorkSpace, a series featuring an inside look at the places where local artists roll up their sleeves and take care of business. For each installment, I'll bring an interview with a local C-U artist, complete with photographs of their work, to showcase his or her craft and expertise.

Angelo Ray Martínez (b.1981, Boulder CO) is a third year MFA Painting candidate at U of I (expected graduation, May 2016) and received his BFA from the University of Colorado Denver in 2010. His paintings combine a wide variety of images from varying times and cultures to reveal how similar subject can conjure different meanings depending on how they are depicted. Drawing reference from ancient artifacts, art history, advertising, video games, and other forms of media, his paintings respond to the simultaneity of our contemporary media culture and investigate how meaning is conveyed, not just by what is depicted, but also how it is depicted.

  • Art form: Painter
  • Influences: 8bit video games, tattoo imagery, 1950’s advertisement, obscure illustrations.  David Salle, Jose Lerma, Josh Reames, Katherine Bernhardt, Mark Posey, Sean-McGee Phetsarath, Mike Giant, Christian Rex van Minnen, and David Rosado.
  • Workspace: 12-foot ceilings wonderful space at the UIUC MFA South Studios
  • Dream collaboration: a mural with both Heart & Bone Signs and Benjamin Cook.
  • Recommended movie: Electrick Children.
  • Favorite spot in C-U: Krannert Museum
  • Where to see his work: Krannert Museum April 9-23, 2016

Smile Politely: When and how did you decide to become an artist?

Angelo Ray Martínez: I won my first art contest in the first grade and was always supported as an artist by my family after that, but I didn’t know what kind of art I really wanted to make until more recently. I originally planned on working as a tattoo artist, but I had a very influential teacher at the Community College of Denver that really made the prospect of being a studio artist much more accessible. Either way, I suppose I’ve always been a creative thinker even if I was directing my energy into skateboarding or tattooing instead of a studio practice geared more toward galleries and museums.

SP: What or who are your influences?

Martínez: Because of the nature of my work, I tend to look at a lot of visual images from the span of recorded history, including 8bit video games, tattoo imagery, 1950’s advertisements, and a lot of obscure illustrations. But as far as contemporary artists that are working in similar ways, I really enjoy looking at paintings by David Salle, Jose Lerma, Josh Reames, Katherine Bernhardt, Mark Posey, Sean-McGee Phetsarath, Mike Giant, Christian Rex van Minnen, and David Rosado.

SP: Who would you like to collaborate with and why?

Martínez: I am would like to like to collaborate on a mural with both Heart & Bone Signs, a sign painting duo based in Chicago, and Benjamin Cook, a second-year MFA candidate at UIUC. I have had many influential conversations with both of them over the years and it would be interesting to see the overlap between our work on a large scale.

SP: Tell us about your workspace.

Martínez: I currently have a wonderful space at the UIUC MFA South Studios, but since I am graduating very soon, I will most likely be shifting to a home studio during my transition after grad school. My current space has been very influential on my practice because of its very large walls (12-foot ceilings). Because of them, I have been able to think about my work at a much larger scale.

Ancient Flight", acrylic on mounted watercolor paper, 7 x 7.12 in, 2015.

SP: Choose a piece of your art work and explain it in detail.

Martínez: I try not to plan out my paintings, instead, I rely mostly on intuition and chance, but in this work, I was thinking about video gaming as a form of psychedelic experience, due to the experience of flashing color and light combined with a type of transcendence. I combined three different representations of a “magic mushroom”, a 1-up from the original Super Mario Bros, a pre-Columbian artifact  from Guatemala believed to be associated with hallucinogenic religious rituals, and an illustrated slice of mushroom pizza which is a reference to the popular Mellow Mushroom pizza chain. By comparing these varying forms of representation I am able to create a more nuanced and complicated index of contrasting cultural associations to the psilocybin mushroom, investigating different cultural histories and how the images are used to signify slightly different meanings.. 8bit video game images are particularly interesting to me as an outmoded form of imagery which influenced the identity of my generation.

SP: What movie would you recommend to watch and why?

Martínez: I really love the movie Electrick Children, 2012. It is a coming of age story about a young girl from an Orthodox Mormon community that goes on a complicated journey, exploring the ambiguities of faith, knowledge, and perception. Also, the acting is great.

SP: What is your favorite spot in C-U?

Martínez: I love to spend time at the Krannert Museum. It truly is a world-class museum that invites a wide range of international contemporary art right in Champaign-Urbana. If you’ve never been or haven’t been in a while, make a point to utilize this amazing resource.

SP: What do you think about the art scene in C-U?

Martínez: Champaign-Urbana has a very supportive and active arts community. I am thankful to have met so many talented artists while living here.

SP: Where, when and how can we see your work?

Martínez: I will be one of the featured artists for this year’s 8 to CREATE live drawing and painting event at [co][lab] in Urbana.

I will be in the upcoming MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Krannert Museum, April 9-23, 2016, Opening Reception: 5-7pm.