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Photo: Annette Hornischer

Artist; and Donald Bren Professor of Art, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, University of California, Irvine

Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the Visual Arts - Class of Fall 2016

A Donald Bren Professor of Art at the University of California at Irvine since 1990, Daniel Joseph Martinez was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 1979. For more than 40 years he has honed his politically inflected practice, which critic Jeffrey Kastner has characterized as “unapologetically prob[ing] uncomfortable issues of personal and collective identity, seeking out threadbare spots in the fabric of conventional wisdom.” Martinez has actively engaged in an interrogation of social, political, and cultural mores through actions and object production that have been described as nonlinear, asymmetrical, multidimensional propositions. Operating with fluidity and as open source manifestations not bound by any singular category or theory. His works extend from the ephemeral to the solid. Martinez’s practice takes the form of aesthetic, theoretical and philosophical interventions to unapologetically question issues of personal and collective identity, vision and visuality, and the fissures formed between the appearance and the perception of difference. Ongoing themes include history, violence, nomadic power, contamination, cultural resistance, war, dissentience, systems of symbolic exchange and the unknown. Directed toward the precondition of politics coexisting as radical beauty immersed in the theoretical propositions in and outside of human experience. There commonality is that they all address topics of race, class and the sociopolitical boundaries present within American society.


Martinez has received two lifetime achievement awards one from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the other from Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami, Florida.


In 2019 Martinez was inducted into the Smithsonian National Oral History Archive. “An honor reserved for Americans who have made major contributions to American culture”. The interview was conducted by the preeminent Chicano Scholar Chon Noriega, a Senior Professor at UCLA, in Film studies, Chicano studies and the Director of the Chicano Resource Center.


Committed to grass-roots artist organizations with 30 years of curatorial experience. Martinez was a co-founder of Deep River (1997-2002) an artist run gallery in downtown Los Angeles which existed as a five-year project producing 45 solo exhibitions for Los Angles artists, He co-founded LA><Art with Lauri Firstenberg and was active as a curator and board member for 10 years. He remains active on multiple non-profit boards around the United States.


Martinez has participated in a total of 18 international biennials, including three Whitney Biennials (1993, 2008, 2022); two SITE Santa Fe Biennials (2012, 2014); the Cairo Biennial, where he officially represented the United States in the American Pavilion (2010); the 6th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2010); the 2nd Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art (2007); and the Bienal Iberoamericana de Lima (2002) and the Venice Biennial in 1993. For the 1993 Whitney Biennial, Martinez created new text for the museum’s admission badges that read “I Can’t Ever Imagine Wanting to Be White.” At the 2008 Whitney Biennial, he presented the installation Divine Violence (2007), which functions, in his words, as “a typology of every organization in the world that uses violence or aggression to fulfill its political ideology.” His work can be found in numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami; and MFA Houston.


Martinez has received three National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowships, a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship, a Getty Center fellowship, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. His work has been recognized with the US Artists’ Fellowship (2008), two Rasmuson Foundation Alaska’s artist-in-residence awards (2009 & 2010), Fellows of Contemporary Art Fellowship (2010), The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (2014), Rockefeller Bellagio residency 2019, and the Rome Prize 2021-22, and . Martinez has been the subject of five monographs, including A Life of Disobedience (Hatje Cantz, 2009), with essays by Arthur C. Danto, David Levi Strauss, Michael Brenson, and Hakim Bey. He is the author of The report of my death is an exaggeration; Memoirs: Of Becoming Narrenschiff (2014), with an essay by Juli Carson. Other recent publications about his work include Who We Be: The Colorization of America, by Jeff Chang; Exhibition as Social Intervention: “Culture in Action” 1993 Exhibition Histories, Volume 5 (Afterall Books); Whitney Museum of American Art Handbook; and Print/Out (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012).

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