Daniel Joseph Martinez was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 1979. Throughout his career spanning close to four decades, Martinez has engaged in an interrogation of social, political, and cultural mores through artworks that have been described as nonlinear, asymmetrical, multidimensional propositions. Operating with fluidity and as open source manifestations not bound by any singular category, his works extend from the ephemeral to the solid. Martinez’s practice takes the form of text, sculpture, photography, painting, installation, robotics, performance, and public 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 contamination, history, surveillance, violence, nomadic power, cultural resistance, war, dissentience, and systems of symbolic exchange, directed toward the precondition of politics coexisting as radical beauty. Their commonality is that they all address topics of race, class and sociopolitical boundaries present within American society.
Martinez represented the U.S. in 11 biennials worldwide, including the Venice Biennial (1993);Istanbul Biennial (2011); Berlin Biennial (2010); California Biennial (2008); Lyon Biennial, France (2013); two Whitney Biennials (1993, 2008); designated the United States in the American Pavilion in the Cairo Biennial (2006), in addition to two international projects of U.S. Department of State. Martinez has received three National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Fellowships, a fellowship from the Getty Center, an Alpert Award in the Arts and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Most recently, Martinez is the recipient of the Career Achievement Award honoring brilliance and resilience in conjunction with the Hammer Museum’s biennial, Made in L.A. 2018 ; the 2018 Rockefeller Foundation, Arts and Literary Arts Fellowship at the Bellagio Center, Italy; the 2017 Achievement Award for The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation’s 15th annual Grants & Commissions Program; the prestigious honor of receiving the American Academy Fellowship in Berlin, Germany (Berlin Prize) in 2016 and the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts from the Herb Alpert Foundation in Los Angeles in 2014. Martinez’s work can be found in public collections both in the United States and abroad including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami, Florida; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the Linda Pace Foundation, San Antonio, Texas. Committed to grass-roots organizations, Martinez was a co-founder of Deep River and LA><Art, both in Los Angeles. He remains additionally active on multiple non-profit boards. Martinez is represented by 5 monographs and currently working on a new book based on his residency in Berlin.
Martinez is a Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Art at the University of California at Irvine; he teaches in the Graduate Studies Program, New Genres Area and Critical and Curatorial Studies. He lives and works in the Crenshaw District in South Los Angeles.