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July 24, 2012

Clutter the World With Pictures By Raul Rodriguez

Everybody can make pictures,’ Philip Guston said in 1966. "In our kind of democracy this is going to proliferate like mad. In the next ten years there will be even much more than there is now… Everybody will be making pictures".
Guston’s prediction can be read as a fitting epigraph for 21st century life. Images are everywhere; we are beset the minute we open our eyes in the morning. From the accidental imagery of the everyday to the more composed images we see on billboards, in newspapers, and in books, pictures usually zoom past us, forgotten as soon as they’re glimpsed.

Sometimes, however, an image lodges itself in the mind and refuses to be forgotten. In his latest series, which takes its title from one of Guston’s lectures, Raul Rodriguez is both creator and editor, sifting through the stream for something valuable, reworking and reinventing the images that have impressed themselves upon him. Why Clutter Up the World with Pictures? is about attempts to not only capture these images, but to transform them into something completely different, and yet uncannily familiar.

The series began as an exploration of the natural lines found in plant life, which Rodriguez noticed and tried to map out during a short stint in Baguio. It has evolved to include images from just about everywhere else ? ‘tabloid front-pages, faded photos, pocketbook covers, doodles by other artists, comics, Xerox copies of avant-garde works, textile patterns’. Rodriguez is a collector, treating images like found objects and later reimagining them in vivid pastel collages. The three hundred resulting prints, all done in oil pastel, come together to create a sort of ‘visual diary’, a chronicle not only of what the artist has seen, but what he has remembered, internalized, and transformed.

Many of these are pre-existing ‘configurations’ generated by other artists. One finds in the series echoes of Daumier, Matisse, Morisot, Seurat, and even Ansel Adams. In this sense it reads like a story of deep and somewhat playful personal engagement with the past, with masters who have influenced, inspired and perhaps even shaped the artist’s style (the most notable being Chabet, who mentored Rodriguez at the UP College of Fine Arts). His use of collage may be postmodern, but Rodriguez also describes himself as a ‘romantic modernist’ who strives to produce pieces he can call his own. He retraces the strokes and techniques of other artists (in some cases even reproducing familiar images) only to ‘juxtapose, disassemble, fuse, rip apart, modify’, subjecting these pictures to his own artistic process. He emulates in order to produce original work.

In Cause of all impressions (After Antoni's Loving Care), for instance, the image of Janine Antoni in the throes of her early 90s performance piece is superimposed onto an impressionist sunset. It’s a stark contrast, but one can see where the two worlds, rather than colliding, become part of each other, the colors of sunset and Antoni’s shadow streaks, as if the original painting was still wet when Antoni - and Rodriguez ? transformed it. Géricault, meanwhile, is reimagined in Overdoing Nonstructure and Doubting it again on the raft of Medusa; the figures at sea, once visible and defined, are almost entirely dissolved into a mass of rough pastel strokes.

There also emerges in the series a constant effort on the artist’s part to unsettle: strange line drawings on Ellsworth Kelly, an unidentifiable object in a field of flowers, voids in the pattern, color waves covered in a gauze of white. ‘Contrapuntal images’ thwart prettiness, symmetry, and harmony; the picturesque and the scenic are tenuous, always at risk. The result is a different sort of beauty that begs questions even as it precludes perfect understanding: ‘The imbalance, the lopsidedness, the slant, the oddness - that's the one method that will keep your art alive and moving’, says Rodriguez.

Pastel, he points out, is often used by children to sketch ‘an imprecise version of an imprecise reality’. Similarly, Rodriguez articulates all sorts of ‘indeterminate realities’, raw experiences that are not fixed, stable, or even understandable. Something about the odd, the indeterminate, the irreconcilable in these prints rings true. Rodriguez harnesses and preserves the immediacy of such experiences, which do not lend themselves so easily to articulation in either words or images. His work allows us to grasp (albeit tentatively) images and moments, pictures that without the artist would simply pass us by.

Words by Mikey Atienza

Contact Details:
For inquiries, please call (63 2) 816-0044, (63 917) 587-4011 or email:
Silverlens Gallery
Pasong Tamo Ext.

YMC Bldg.
2320 Pasong Tamo Ext.
Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

Thursday July 26, 2012 - Saturday August 18, 2012

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