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  • Victoria Comstock-Kershaw

NET SUCCESS: MAURO C. MARTINEZ AT UNIT LONDON

There's a lot to be said for post-internet contemporary art, but there's one thing that its proponents often lack: humor. There's a sort of sterile seriousness to a lot of meme-based art that can sometimes overshadow the inherent playfulness of the form: Mauro C. Martinez, however, has mastered the line between the meme and the meditative, a fact on full-force display at his latest solo show at UNIT London. Practice Makes Purrfect is a delightful and vivacious show filled with the ironic jocularity and acerbic zest that all post-internet art should aspire to.


Mauro C Martinez, Practice Makes Purrfect 11, 2023


Practice Makes Purrfect is a slight departure from the Mexican-American artists' previous show in the gallery, which examined the liminality of virtual gaming and its practitioners' desktop spaces. This is Martinez's first series that is not directly inspired by internet culture, but no less carries the same sort of toungue-in-cheek humour that prevades in previous series like Cursed Emojis (comprised of oil paintings copies of distorted emoji faces) or Sensitive Content (depicting blurred images overlayed with Instagram's content warning screen). Practice Makes Purrfect sees 15 paintings from a birds-eye perspective of tennis players in mid-swing in which the shadow of the ball in replaced by the outline of a housecat.


Mauro C Martinez, Practice Makes Purrfect 11, 2023


The vivid primaries of the courts and the players clothing dominate the canvas, but it's the movement - or the locus of movement - that really carry the scenes. Martinez uses the narrative of motion to simultaneously satirize and celebrate the darker side of competition, highlighting the paradoxical intricacies inherent to corivalry. Inspired by Hannah Wohl’s book Bound By Creativity (2021), Martinez seeks to explores how artists develop their own work by building upon others through experimentation and social interactions, unwittingly entering into unspoken competition themselves.


Mauro C Martinez, Practice Makes Purrfect 14, 2023

Martinez's technical grasp of light and shadow is also made manifest throughout the exhibition. The strong daylight illumination of sport photography is not an easy one of translate into a medium like painting, especially when communicating the distance between the shadow of the players and of their airborne marks, but the deep umbras cast by the subjects against the vast, arresting landscapes of their courts are remarkably convincing. His shapes are sharp and simple, the shadows starting strong before blurring expertly as they travel away from their progenitors, naturally leading the eye towards the blurred contour of the floating feline and its unfortunate fate.


The cats are often out of sight, existing only as shadows or vague blurs in the foreground, leaving the audience to put together the pieces of whats going on. In this contextual realm, the works capture a profoundly significant facet of post-internet art: the celebration of the viewer's intrinsic capacity to insinuate and weave their own narratives. Martinez has, as it were, laid the dominoes, but relies on us to knock them over: The cat is not hit across the court until we lay eyes of it, the racquet won't swing through the air until we allow it to in our minds.


From left to right: Practice Makes Purrfect 8, Practice Makes Purrfect 3, Practice Makes Purrfect 7, Practice Makes Purrfect 10 (2023)


It's an excellent choice for Unit, who themselves have has become synonymous with a pioneering use of social media and digital content amongst the London artworld. Martinez's Sensitive Content series prompted the public to send the gallery emails asking them to 'fix' their social media posts, a testament to how successfully the gallery bridges the gap between the physical and virtual spheres of modern art. Martinez's solo show is shown alongside the group exhibit Worlds Beyond featuring Monica Kim Garza, Alvin Armstrong, and Pelle Cass.


Installation view, courtesy of UNIT London.


Practice Makes Purrfect is on view from January 3 - February 4, 2024 at UNIT London, 3 Hanover Square, London W1S 1HD.

 

Victoria Comstock-Kershaw is a London-based arts writer and contemporary art critic.

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