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‘Contemporary Flatweave’ by Wence & Sandra Martinez

Tradition is alive (and growing) at Latino Arts

Sep. 22, 2015
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The gallery is activated by the tapestries moving lightly in the HVAC breeze. They line the walls, accompanied by various studies for finished pieces. In the center of the spacious room, large woven pieces hang from the ceiling like quiet sentries.

“Contemporary Flatweave Rooted in Legacy by Wence & Sandra Martinez” at Latino Arts is an exhibition displaying work from the Martinez studio. Working in collaboration, spouses Wence and Sandra work with their daughter and other family members to produce textiles inspired by Oaxacan weaving traditions. Contemporary pieces form the majority of the exhibition, accented by special examples that illustrate the passing down of craft, such as a blanket woven in the 1940s by Wence’s grandfather.

The textiles often feature abstract and organic forms, some based on acrylic studies by Sandra. She takes inspiration from Haitian metalwork and automatic drawing techniques, a thread that connects to the surrealists of the 1920s and ’30s. Some of her designs have qualities like the Spanish surrealist artist Joan Miró, with biomorphic forms that curiously evoke the body, yet retain an utterly nonrepresentational form.

One of the exhibition’s centerpieces is a tapestry called Codice Nuttall, which references a pre-Columbian manuscript dating to the 14th century, from the Mixtec culture. The imagery revolves around the legacies of rulers of the Tilantongo kingdom, situated in the present-day Mexican state of Oaxaca in the south of the country. Martinez’s detailed work recreates fierce warriors and fantastical figures of fish and an alligator-like creature with deft skill and a refined color sense, using neutral tones varied by subtle, nuanced changes in hue. This piece will go on tour to the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Smithsonian Craft Show before being permanently placed in the Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

In addition to presenting technical skill in weaving, the Martinez Studio shows the possibilities of natural dyes, using materials such as bark, pecan leaves and lichen. The perpetuation of these traditional methods and sustainable materials is a significant element of this exhibition, as well as the joining of craft and generational continuity. 

Through Oct. 14 at Latino Arts, 1028 S. Ninth St. 

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