José Carlos Martinat’s practice frequently involves appropriating images and texts from the public sphere and recontextualizing them in mixed-medium works and sculptural installations. Between 2009 and 2013, he produced the series Pintas (Impressions), in which he removed street graffiti with advertising, political slogans, or candidates’ names—in the case of this work, that of the former mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda. After applying a resin-based medium onto a painted wall, Martinat would peel off the imprint and its material support, creating a new and autonomous image of a single letter or word. Taken out of context and installed in a museum space, the extracted fragment is activated in new ways as a signifier of language, politics, and public space. A residual image of what was previously a word or a phrase, Ñ speaks to the erodible, changeable nature of language and speech, whose users introduce fluctuations that ultimately transform communication itself. As a distinctive letter from modern Hispanic alphabets, “ñ” is also a differential sign, one that indicates otherness in relation to the global hegemony of English. A striking example of Martinat’s most recent production, this new acquisition is the first work by the Peruvian artist to enter MoMA’s collection.
Organized by Luis Pérez-Oramas, Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, with Karen Grimson, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.