Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

34-year-old American artist Mauro Martinez (Mauro Martinez) became famous due to the fact that he turned Internet memes into paintings. In his youth, he suffered from heroin addiction, but with the help of family support, he was able to overcome it and take up painting.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintingsHe wrote his first paintings "on the table": Martinez posted them on Instagram, but he had neither subscribers nor connections in the world of modern art. Over time, he managed to turn paintings into the main source of income and become a successful contemporary artist: today, Martinez's works are exhibited in various European and American galleries.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

The artist Mauro Martinez was born in 1986 in the Texas city of Laredo near the Mexican border. His great-aunt was a librarian and had an impressive personal collection of books about art. Martinez learned to draw from them as a child. Then his mother showed him the Gary Larson comics. Having met them, he realized that art can be fun.

A cat with hands, known in the Russian-language Internet as a cat with hands, is a popular template in 2019, which was used both to indicate anger and irritation, and for abstract memes.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

The title of the picture — Hellmo-consists of the English word Hell, meaning hell, and Elio, a character from Sesame Street.

Martinez's childhood was at a time when not every family had access to the Internet. In high school, he finally got a computer. Martinez recalls that he spent a lot of time on AOL Instant Messenger — a cult messaging program among American children of the 90s. There the future artist saw emoticons for the first time.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

The picture "Social Distance" from the series dedicated to the pandemic.

Martinez started Instagram in 2012. He didn't know anyone from the art world, so he just created paintings and posted them on the social network. At the same time, he learned about hashtags, geotags and other ways to increase the audience.

A year later, he opened an online store and began selling his works for $ 25. By September 2014, the sale of paintings began to bring such income that Martinez was able to quit his job.

The artist, however, agrees that in some ways memes still lose to paintings:

Martinez created the first meme-inspired work in 2016.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

"Mark Thickerberg" (Mark Thickerberg) — another pun-based name: thicker translates from English as "thicker". Netizens regularly troll Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for his appearance, trying to find proof that he is an alien at every opportunity.

However, the artist believes that art can be a kind of buffer and an incentive for a productive discussion.

Critics see metaphors, irony and black humor in Martinez's works.

Critics are sure that with his works Martinez asks the question:

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

Unit London organized a display of Martinez's works — the first European solo exhibition in his life — in September 2020. The month dedicated to the Martinez exhibition coincided with the month when the artist celebrated a personal holiday: exactly ten years ago, he overcame heroin addiction.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

In 2019, Martinez created a series of works about how people are photographed together with paintings.

In his opinion, in this context, a work of art turns into an extension of a person and gets a new meaning.

The picture called "Metacartina" refers to a meme about strange times, based on an old joke. The child asks the parent why his sister's name is Rose, and learns that the reason is that his mother loves roses.

The boy thanks his father for the answer, and from the next remark, readers will learn the child's name. In the classic versions of the meme, the names of cars, alcoholic beverages or products were used as the boy's name. In Martinez's version, the child was named Metacartins.

Artist Mauro Martinez, a former drug addict who turns memes into paintings

Martinez admits that it is difficult for him to work for a long time inside one series. Nevertheless, he is sure that all his works have something in common: they are all aimed at documentation, and it is in the documentation of time that he sees his purpose as an artist. At the same time, Martinez believes that memes are one of the best ways to capture modernity.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Martinez devoted a series of works to how the infection affected the lives of ordinary people. For his paintings, he used images published by the accounts to which he subscribed. He called his project "Summer 2020".

Keywords: Heroin | Addiction | Art | Memes

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