Galerie Peter Kilchmann presents its second solo exhibition; and the first in France; by Cuban artist Dagoberto Rodríguez (b. 1969 in Havana; lives and works in Madrid) at our new Paris gallery. In the exhibition, entitled Solar Storm, Rodríguez, a former member of the collective Los Carpinteros, revisits certain themes that he has treated before, while weaving a web that brings them together anew. In four chapters, Rodríguez reveals a panorama of political situations from around the world: the sad reality of yet another war in Europe’s doorstep; migrant crises provoked by such conflicts; the desire to flee a hostile world and to take refuge – why not on Mars; and what this ultimate quest means in terms of utopianism. Brought together in an unprecedented ensemble, the new works take the form of video, sculpture, oil painting and watercolour.
Dagoberto Rodríguez's practice unfolds in the gap between art and everyday life....He observes iconic moments from colonial past to our desires for contemporary expansions and our dreams of future invasions: history unfolding and repeating itself. While highlighting the ways in which the tools and means are changing, with borders constantly being pushed back (on Earth as well in the solar system), he also suggests that human nature inevitably and unreasonably aims to explore in order to better invade and colonise. The artist always presents the same amused gaze in a visual language of contradiction and transformation. For Rodríguez, history is not a fixed nor linear concept: the past, the present and the future can and must interact.
Visitors are welcomed by a helmet in the window, which belongs to a set of 7 other identical helmets (NIDEC CSC10, variable dimensions) presented on a shelf in one of the gallery spaces. These helmets, accessories of warrior cultures, are also associated with police forces. Cast here in sparkling aluminium, aligned in an almost rigid order, they contrast strangely with the anarchic and chaotic conglomerate of objects spilling over onto a Russian tank, which rolls over them (Tanque ruso, 150 x 150 cm). In a simultaneously hyper-realistic and almost abstract way, Rodríguez engages in a stylistic exercise, alternating between muted colours and bright touches; smooth glosses and thicknesses. Another tank, on paper this time (Tanque Ruso IV, 130 x 200 cm), drawn according to a Lego motif, is reminiscent of planet-exploring robots. We get the feeling these machine-vehicles are also tools of colonisation and/or weapons of destruction.
One of the deadly consequences of war, of course, is the spread of refugee camps. Rodríguez focuses here on several recent tragedies. Most refugees travelling from Africa in an attempt to reach Europe arrive at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece (Moria Refugee Camp, 100 x 130 cm). In Havana, the locals who meet in the old city of the port, hoping to leave the island to flee the political, social and economic crisis that has beset Cuba, feel just as imprisoned, although it is not strictly a refugee camp (Havana Refugee Camp I, 100 x 130 cm). In Bangladesh, since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, mostly Muslims, have been fleeing a Burmese army offensive and now crowd together in dire sanitary conditions (Rohinyia Refugee Camp, 200 x 200 cm). The aesthetic and almost playful dimension of the wide shots seen from the sky engages the viewer in paradoxical ways. The Lego motif keeps the subject at a distance on the one hand, and subtracts the viewer from an immediate understanding of the object on the other. He is therefore torn between several perspectives on actions: playing, reorganising, demolishing, building… The possibility of a reversal of meaning emerges at the same time as the reversal of the image.
In addition, three landscapes of dunes spread out in a palette of earthy tones and clay-like colours. Mechanical elements disrupt the apparent calm of these sandy, rocky expanses. The grey dunes of Bagnold (Bagnold Dune, 135 x 200 cm) are surveyed by a NASA geology robot in search of traces of water. Further on, a similar machine inspects the Jezero crater on the planet Mars (Jezero Crater, 135 x 200 cm). In 2021, the Perseverance rover confirmed that this crater was home to a lake some 3.6 billion years ago (Perseverance, 130 x 200 cm). Human beings, with constancy, watch for any trace of potential past lives, a presage of those they could invest in these extra-terrestrial spaces. These paintings, on canvas and on paper, borrow their iconography from Lego, one of the artist’s favorite motifs, which simultaneously represents the mediatisation, digitalisation, technologization, and pixelation of our universe. Realities are altered, fictions fragmented, echoing the multiple layers of languages and the plural interpretations of images. These plastic bricks also carry within them the possibility of collapse, of decadence. Incidentally, the planet Mars takes its name from the god of the Roman pantheon. The disturbances we cause in our fantasies of prosperity in all these territories suggest that any community driven by a desire for colonisation would ultimately be an embodiment of the tutelary figure of the warlord.
In the final room, a digital animation is projected (Tormento Solar, 2:06 min.). This futuristic vision manages to poetically resolve these patterns of conquest. In this space mythology, a movement brings us ever closer to the explosion of a heat source which pulsates like a heart. The artificial bricks crackle. Is the sun defending itself from such solicitation? Are we burning our wings, drawn in spite of ourselves to the light it emits? Naturally, Rodríguez is addressing the impact of technologies on the environment and on humanity, but his purpose is not so much to denounce these things as to offer a romantic mirror with which to confront the reflection of the structures of our impulses. These inherited forms of conditioning drive us and make our modern destinies contagious.
Dagoberto Rodríguez was one of the co-founder of the artist collective Los Carpinteros that collaborated between 1992 to 2018. The works of Los Carpinteros are part of several collections of international institutions such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Musée d‘art contemporain (MAC) de Montréal; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and Tate Modern, London just to name a few. Recent solo exhibitions include The Phillips Collection, Washington (2019); La cosa esta candela, Banco de la República, Bogotá (2017-2018); O Objeto vital, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil at several locations in Brazil (2016-2017); Los Carpinteros MUAC, Mexico City (2016) and Yelmo, Museum Folkwang, Essen (2014). In 2015, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London opened a permanent exhibition with a large-scale sculpture entitled Globe. As a solo artist, Rodríguez participated in the collective exhibition La NO Comunidad at CentroCentro, Madrid in 2018. In the spring of 2019, his works were presented at the XIII Bienal de la Habana. The same year, his works were exhibited at the art center in Astana, Kazakhstan. A major personal exhibition, Guerra Interior was on view at the CAAM Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain (2020). In 2022, Refugios y Umbrales, opened at the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea Conde Duque, Madrid; Futuro Alternativo, at the Palazzo del Parco, Diano Marina, Italy and Mars Storm at Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, Miami, USA. Also in 2022, the Solar Storm project curated by Jérôme Sans was shown in collaboration with materia.art, a digital art platform.
Entrada actualizada el el 10 feb de 2023
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