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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Daniel Joseph Martinez
American, born 1957
To Make a Blind Man Murder for the Things He's Seen (Happiness Is Over-rated)
Silicon over fiberglass skeleton, animated using computer-controlled pneumatics, digital audio with self-contained sound system

39 x 21 x 24 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
2007 Latin American Experience Gala and Auction

Arts of North America

Los Angeles-based artist Daniel Joseph Martinez produces provocative work deployed in the public realm through site-specific and public art projects investigating and challenging uneven power relationships in American society. Rooted in the art and activism of the Chicano art movement, Martinez contemplates his own mortality in relation to long-held intellectual and philosophical beliefs about the function of art as a vehicle for social change.

The hyper-realistic installation To Make a Blind Man Murder for the Things He's Seen (Happiness Is Over-rated) consists of a life-size animatronics replica of the artist dressed in a blue, industrial uniform that visually codifies the working-class individual in contemporary American society. Kneeling on the floor and holding a straight-edge razor blade in each hand, the figure proceeds to slash his wrists, while simultaneously emitting the artists’ own sardonic, infectious laugh. Happiness Is Over-rated uses mordant humor as a means of examining conditions of life and death from the perspective of a U.S.-Latino artist, while making reference to Walt Disney, Yukio Mishima, and the globalization of identity politics.