Luciana Martinez de la Rosa came to prominence in the 1970s as part of a loose collective of artists, designers and musicians, who became known as 'Them'. Coined in 1976 by Peter York in an article for Harpers & Queen, 'Them' was a new subculture, post-pop and pre-punk, described as a "mysterious aesthetic conspiracy". According to York, at the forefront of 'Themness' were Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music, the designer Zandra Rhodes, while the Alternative Miss World contest was regarded as "the ultimate Them event".
Artists associated with 'Themness' included Derek Jarman, Duggie Fields, Andrew Logan, Martinez and Kevin Whitney. She shared a house with Whitney, and worked with Jarman on several of his films. She acted in Sebastiane and In The Shadow of the Sun, and served as a costume designer on Jubilee. Indeed, after starting her career as a DJ, Martinez worked as a clothing designer before becoming interested in film and performance art. But it was for her paintings that she became best-known, and in particular for her portraits.
Sitters often included friends from her illustrious and eclectic social circle, such as fashion designer Jasper Conran, actress and fashion designer Edina Ronay, film director Nicolas Roeg, and Susanne Bartsch, whose famed nightclub parties Martinez attended in New York. Her paintings were notable for a bold, vibrant palette, which often comprised magenta, tangerine and gold leaf, as well as for paying homage to art history. For example, the epic Pru Pru is inspired by Manet's Olympia, with a green-haired Martinez, resplendent in a striped kimono, depicted in place of the servant. Martinez painted several self-portraits, in which she assumed various sensual and glamorous guises. Martinez was described by Duggie Fields as "very charismatic and beautiful", and indeed, Fields, along with Kevin Whitney, were both inspired to paint numerous portraits of her.
Martinez died in 1995, aged just 47. Her tragic death deprived her the chance of achieving the wider recognition that her peers enjoyed later in their respective careers. As a result, her name is now little-known. Indeed, the Redfern's recent, critically acclaimed show, THEM, was the first time that her work had been seen in London for decades. Though a short-lived movement, 'Them', according to curator James Birch, remains important as it was the last time before "culture became commodified", and acts as a bridge between two eras, of post-Pop art and pre-YBAs.