Oil and spray on canvas
If a person were choking to death, and had the presence of mind--in his riveting existential isolation, in his penultimate hour--to initiate a self-heimlich maneuver over a chair one would expect his face to be a map of terror and fear. But in Mauro C. Martinez's painting, For God's Sake Save Yourself, you get what looks like the face of a middle-class accountant, calmingly totaling up the quarterly reports as he perishes. The bland, accepting face of the victim makes one almost heavy with the insult of this artist's passive-aggressive lunge at the viewer.
The scene might be taking place in Aisle 6 at Walmart. The chair, which appears to be breaking up around the "doubled figure," is a kind of "kaleidoscope of life", a trope going back to the Middle Ages, here employed as a device of disintegration, descent and wreckage. We have seen these ironies used by Martinez before, floated our way with a cunning use of pictorialism and palette. In fact, they are signature elements in his work, like the spontaneous zephyr of orange which briefly energizes everything.
The artist's subjects, like this one, always seem to choose non-meaning over meaning, passively tricked into accepting the ruinous path of moral least resistance. Redemption shines down, but will it be identified and embraced? Martinez's work is thus equal parts observation and equal parts prophecy, and he himself seems ominously sensitive to the banal, the dumbed-down and the depleted--an eternal Bollywood from which we can never hope to escape.
The asphyxiating man isn't getting it--but who is? We had the experience but missed the meaning.