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In this interview with Jacinto Quirarte, César Martinez recounts his early years and education at Texas A&I in Kingsville. While studying as an artist, he was attracted to Abstract Expressionism and color field painting, although involvement with the Chicano Movement and exposure to Chicano art compelled him to work in a more figurative mode. Employed by the Texas Institute for Educational Development, he traveled across the Southwest documenting early Chicano art, and developed relationships with a number of artists that would influence his more figurative work, including San Diego’s (CA) Salvador "Queso" Torres. The artist also discusses his involvement with arts organizations in Texas, including Con Safo (Safos), and his later defection from this group to form Los Quemados with Carmen Lomas Garza and Amado Peña. He then talks about several of his most notable series, including the Pachuco Series, the South Texas Series and the Mestizo Series. Martínez explains that each series begins as an idea or concept that then gestates over a period of time as he explores the appropriate execution and approach for each. He notes that his combination of figuration and color field painting is understood differently outside of the Chicano context, where it is often received as a cultural artifact rather than appreciated as a work of art.


César Martinez is one of the seminal Chicano artists, both in his artistic and political contributions. Martinez’s interview with art historian, Jacinto Quirarte from 1997 was included in the catalogue of his first major one-person museum exhibition in 1999. The interview provides a comprehensive account of his artistic development and the multiple influences that shaped his painting styles, techniques and iconography. Especially noteworthy are the descriptions of his involvement with two important artist collectives that helped define Chicano art:  Con Safo (Safos) and Los Quemados. As a key figure in each, Martinez offers important first hand information on the groups’ establishment, mission and membership.

Tere Romo
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of Jacinto Quirarte, Helotes, TX
Courtesy of the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX