Yuri Martinez was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1964, into a family of artists. He has crafted his own signature style which is a blend of Surrealism and Cubism techniques to portray his own depiction of reality. His faces can be compared to Botero and his style influenced by Chagall.
He comes from a legacy of artists. His grandfather was a painter and his father is a renowned illustrator and designer who for many years worked for Cuba’s National Scientific Academy. Having two uncles who were well-known sculptors also influenced Yuri’s style. Martinez and his older brother (Rene Ramos), now a fine artist as well, would spend countless hours in their family’s small apartment engaged in artistic sibling rivalry, seeing who could out-draw the other.
Graduating from the National School of Arts in 1983, Martinez’s academic background encompassed painting, drawing, sculpting, and designing. He put some of these skills to work as the illustrator and designer at the Ministry of Education in Havana while also painting and selling works in the famed Cathedral Square. But by 1993, Martinez had begun developing and refining what would become his personal style, and it was at this point that he decided to turn his attention entirely to fine art.
Martinez creates unique painterly textures achieved by layering oil on canvas as a watercolorist would, letting the light emerge and shimmer through the background. These textures enrich the environment of his magical images where the ironic message is the depiction of people seeking escape from a deplorable system, whether that escape is found in daydreams, memories, music, or a lover. Sometimes the escape depicted is more literal, with characters flying away, often employing fantastic gadgets-an affectionate nod to the makeshift yet determined creativity of the Cuban character, a creativity that exists within the confines of a reality where simply surviving is part of everyday living.
In 1998, Yuri Martínez arrived in Los Angeles for his first successful solo exhibition “Dream of the Distant” at Papillon Gallery in Los Angeles. In the shadow of the Elian Gonzalez affair, Martínez was granted special status by the US Department of Justice and the State Department and by Cuban authorities. He spent five years in North Hollywood, CA awaiting Castro to let his wife and son go free. His brother came to the US for the first time in 2012 to visit him in San Antonio, Texas where Yuri currently resides.
For Yuri Martínez it was a culmination of a lifelong dream to pursue his artistic career outside of Cuba. Since that time, Yuri Martínez has staged several solo and group exhibitions and his paintings can be found in collections around the world in Germany, Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile, Mexico, and Panama including sizable collections by several Academy Award winners, including Whoopi Goldberg.