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In “Pistas para un viaje,” Puerto Rican critic Celedonio Abad discusses the three exhibitions of Martorell’s work held in 1991: the first at La Casa del Libro in San Juan; the second at La Casa del Peón Caminero in Cayey; and the third at the Museo de Arte in Ponce. Abad remarks on the imaginative powers of an artist who has been able to create and “edify” Puerto Rico in installations, environments, prints, and drawings. Martorell is, in Abad’s view, an “architect who has created spaces suited to the exaggerated nature of tropical life, spaces so necessary in this country.” In the essay “Casa Libre,” Abad’s analysis focuses on some of Martorell’s houses/installations. Inspired by the puns Martorell himself uses, Abad offers a number of different “readings” of the work Casa de Libro [House of Books]. Abad also provides in-depth analysis of works like Casa Singer [Singer House], Casa Rilke [Rilke House], and Diccionario de la Lengua Mechada [Stuffed Tongue Dictionary].


Antonio Martorell dedicated his exhibition at La Casa del Libro in San Juan to the German-language poet Rainier Maria Rilke.

Martorell (Santurce, b. 1939) was trained at the Taller de Gráfica del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña [Puerto Rican Cultural Institute Print Workshop] under Lorenzo Homar. During his career, Martorell worked as a theater set and wardrobe designer, poster artist, printmaker, painter, book illustrator, professor, and writer. But, most importantly, he has been a graphic designer. In 1968, he founded the Taller Alacrán [Scorpion Workshop]—a workshop-art school devoted to criticizing Puerto Rican social conditions and politics—and managed it until 1971. In 1974 he was among the prize-winning artists at the III Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano [3rd San Juan Biennial of Latin American Prints]. Two years later, on the eve of the 4th Biennial he resigned from the jury because he was opposed to using funds from the United States bicentenary to finance the event. Multiple protests led to the cancellation of the 4th Biennial in 1976, and the event did not take place until 1979. Martorell was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the 7th Biennial in 1986. A year earlier the FBI raided his home as part of an attempt to arrest presumed members of Los Macheteros [the Machete Wielders], an underground revolutionary group that worked tirelessly to promote Puerto Rican independence. 


Flavia Marichal Lugo
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico