Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego (ICA San Diego) announces Narsiso Martinez’s: Rethinking Essential the artist’s homage to the nation’s agriculture workers

SAN DIEGO, CA — (January 23rd, 2023) Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego (ICA San Diego) is excited to announce Narsiso Martinez’s exhibit Rethinking Essential, the artist’s first solo exhibition in a San Diego, opening March 4, 2023 in the Linda Formo Brandes Gallery at its North location in Encinitas. This exhibition is a collaboration between ICA San Diego and the Museum of Latin American Art, MOLAA.

Narsiso Martinez (b. 1977, Oaxaca) creates drawings, paintings, and multi-media installations that celebrate the vital and often invisible labor performed by farmworkers in the United States. Drawing on diverse influences from 1930s social realism to street art, Martínez combines charcoal, gouache, gold leaf, and collage to produce portraits of industrious field workers layered atop cardboard produce boxes. By placing detailed images of the people who feed us against the slick graphics and punchy text of the corporate food industry, Martínez reintroduces the human element—in all its vulnerability—into our experience of the food we consume.

“Narsiso’s work reminds us of the costs of our consumption, and the humanity—the labor and sacrifice—that we are so far removed from by the time our food reaches our tables. Portraying the individuals that literally feed us is an extremely powerful act,” says Jordan Karney Chaim, PhD, Curator at ICA San Diego.

Martinez’s work is informed by his own experiences as a farmworker, spending summers picking produce in Washington State to support himself while studying at Cal State Long Beach. The exhibition’s title, Rethinking Essential, calls attention to the fundamental importance of farm labor in this country. "When people see my work, I hope they see these individuals who work in the fields — that they're really at the frontlines of food production, and that they are humans, they have families. We need them to have the same opportunities as everybody else," Martinez explained in a recent interview. His work reminds us that the indispensability of essential workers extends beyond healthcare, and includes the crucial contributions of farmworkers that often remain hidden from view.

This presentation has been made possible through the generous support of the California Arts Council, Buttgenbach Foundation, and Charlie James Gallery.

Narsiso Martinez, Rethinking Essential
ICA San Diego / North, March 4 – June 4, 2023
Open Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 12:00 - 5:00 pm // Free to the public.
Images of Narsiso Martinez’s exhibition are available by request.

About the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego
ICA San Diego is a platform for experimental art and learning with a mission to question everything. Founded in 2021, yet built on over 100 years of combined experience, our programming is cutting edge yet accessible; daring and thoughtful; challenging and inviting. Our exhibitions, installations, commissions, classes, and workshops reflect ICA San Diego’s commitment to engage the issues of the moment and provide a space for the community to come together and consider the world in which we live. ICA San Diego welcomes everyone to gather, learn, question, and experience the new. ICA San Diego is always free and open to the public. ICA San Diego / Central is located at 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, and ICA San Diego / North is located at 1550 S. El Camino Real in Encinitas.

Christine Martinez, 858-663-7887
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