For I use to eat lemon meringue pie till I overloaded on my pancreas with sugar and passed out; It seemed to be a natural response to a society of abundance (1978), also known as the Bodybuilder series, Martinez asked male bodybuilding competitors to pose in whatever position felt “most natural.” They are obviously trained in presenting their ambitiously carved physiques, but their facial expressions seem comparatively unstudied. Against a bare white background, the men appear unexpectedly vulnerable, caught between performance and rehearsal, public and private.
Martinez’s sculpture A meditation on the possibility... of romantic love or where you goin’ with that gun in your hand, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton discuss the relationship between expressionism and social reality in Hitler’s painting depicts the legendary Black Panther leaders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. By using Carrara marble, a material usually associated with heroic public sculptures, Martinez casts the history of African-American revolutionaries into the artistic tradition of monumentality.
For more than three decades, the Los Angeles–based artist Daniel Joseph Martinez has used every art medium at his disposal to investigate raw aspects of American culture, dipping adeptly into derangements of body and brain, individual and society. In one well-known piece that he produced for the 1993 Whitney Biennial, he replaced the text on the museum’s admission ticket with the phrase “I Can’t Ever Imagine Wanting to Be White.” Visitors held the sentiment in their hands and kept it in their pockets. In The House America Built (2004), he re-created in exacting detail the cabin in which the Unabomber penned his manifesto. While Martinez’s concepts are tight and concise, they leave ample space to implicate the viewer. His work prompts more than finger pointing; it catalyzes introspection, signaling the necessity of taking stock of one’s own role in perpetuating difficult yet ubiquitous images.