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Flying Solo: Martín Gutierrez's polymathic pursuits

The multi-talented musician and performance artist looks forward to his first solo exhibition in New York

Martín Gutierrez likes to blur lots of lines. Gender, race, sexuality and class are all up for grabs in his first exhibition at New York’s Ryan Lee gallery, mixing performance, photography and video mediums in works that explore his own fluid identity and personal transformations. Seeing the world without limitation, his work pits individual concern against larger social issues. In Real Dolls, a surreal dream-like series casting Gutierrez himself as a living mannequin, he explores tensions between humour and tragedy in suburban culture. Born in California to an American mother and Guatemalan father, Gutierrez has worked as set designer, makeup artist, costumier and cameraman. Fashion scene darling, his first single "Hands Up" was snapped up by Saint Laurent Paris to soundscape their Cruise 2012 runway show, followed closely by Dior and Acne. His debut EP is released this year.

Dazed Digital: You began your career as a fine artist exploring printmaking.  What moved you to then also pursue a career in music?
Martín Gutierrez:
 I often work on more than one project at a time, in more than one medium at a time. Music has always been a hobby that until recently I kept private. It wasn't until I started selling music to fashion houses like YSL, Dior, and Acne for editorial films that I thought of music as a career path. I love the act of creating, whether dance, video, painting, or music. I don't know at this point where my musical exploits will take me.

DD: The connections you draw within fine art and pop music are really interesting.  Do you consider pop music an art form, if so/not, why do you think that is?
Martín Gutierrez: It’s a timeless debate. I’m a sucker for a catchy club song, but when listening to the Top 20 on the radio, I hear the formula for how a pop song is put together. The fact that some songwriters and producers create the kind of tune that gets stuck in your head all day means they are masters of their craft. Where I have trouble calling that craft an art form is in the lack of originality or experimentation in pop music today.  Often musical recipes are recycled over and over again by the same artists and lack the creativity inherent to ‘art’.   I’m nostalgic for the days when pop musicians wrote and played all their own music and didn't need a team of people styling them. 

DD: Do you feel fine art is a niche interest today, as say compared to pop music? Who do you believe your artistic audience to be?
Martín Gutierrez: I think fine art is still a flavor not everyone tries at first, but it is definitely more accessible than in the past, in part because of modern technology and growing open media.  The dramatic moral gesture to dismiss the mainstream by people who don't like pop music or think its too ‘normal’, parallels that of those who find fine art too ‘weird’.  If my artistic audience is anything like my friends, it will be an eclectic group of charismatic fashionistas and artists.

DD: You are fully involved in your work, with everything from directing and producing to styling and starring.  Is it easier having complete control over your work?
Martín Gutierrez: I enjoy collaborating, but there is truth to the expression that you don't want too many cooks in the kitchen.  It is much easer for me to jump into a project by playing all the parts, rather than explaining what I want to someone else first. I think traveling between mediums has strengthened my art practice a great deal.  It has made me self-sufficient in many ways, as well as hyper aware of my own insecurities and authenticity when on film. 

DD: What are your greatest dreams for the future?
Martín Gutierrez: I used to think it was enough to be a cage dancer until I sprained my ankle.  But with all the recent opportunities this year, as corny as it sounds, I hope to be making art, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after.