Working with the most classical media and techniques of art making, including drawing, sculpture and painting, Hernández’s practice interrogates the nature of art, the divisions that characterize it, and their relationship to contemporary epistemology. For all the apparent naïveté of his work, it takes nothing for granted, asking what a drawing is or a figure or even the moon. He draws on a number of aesthetic references, which range from MesoAmerican culture to European modernism, among others, to develop a formal vocabulary that is all his own.
Konrad Bitterli, Spiral: Artistic Markings between Worlds
Light from the north enters through a large, slightly tapered rooflight and illuminates the studio. It makes the walls and even the slightest details of the room appear in sober clarity. The artist Rodrigo Hernández knows how to use this situation of concentration – not, as one might expect, for the presentation of classical painting, but for the wonderfully luminous floor piece Spiral (2011), the deeper meaning of which rests in darkness.
Spiral could be interpreted using the terminology of painting – as a redefinition of the traditional figure-ground problem, but translated into the third dimension. In an area of roughly seven square metres, several small objects are grouped in a bizarre rendezvous on top of radiantly white tiles. Inevitably, one recalls the oft-quoted comparison of Comte de Lautréamont, the French poet and grandfather of the Surrealists: “(…) as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!”, though Hernández’s installation Spiral is of a distinctly more tranquil nature. The six jewel-like miniatures, each set on a ceramic tile, contrast with their gleaming ground in a frugal aesthetic arrangement: a lizard, cast in metal, underneath a plexiglas dome: a stone on a wooden plinth with an opening the size of a mouse- hole: a Red Bull can sanded down to the aluminium base: a book with a white cover, which is actually a plaster cast with traces of drawing on it: a cardboard object on its side, as well as a skyscraper model. A wooden ball hangs from the ceiling on a fine thread, seemingly hovering over the surreal scenery. With only a few elements the artist creates a concentrated layout of objects, a poetically loaded topography of the mysterious.
As clearly as the articles can be labelled, since most of them derive from our everyday reality or emblematically refer to it, a conceptual interpretation in the sense of the narrative capacity of a coherent ensemble is complex, ultimately doomed to failure. This is what the tiled field suggests: to a certain extent it is a plinth, a stage for the encounter between the equally foreign and familiar things. Each one seems to belong to a different world, to contain different stories, or to encourage different readings: a lizard, even cast in metal, could refer to nature, a Red Bull can point towards a popular form of everyday culture, and the small skyscraper could be a metaphor for the progress of civilization. Although small-scale, some of these precious items can be viewed as models; others are life-size, and yet others seem to be both at the same time. With his precisely selected items and their diverse references on the glistening tiles, Hernández, at least mentally, literally lures us onto thin ice.It is exactly such moments of permanent notional linking and rejecting that characterize Rodrigo Hernandez’s artistic work. Even if it is formally oriented towards Minimalism or Arte Povera, it proves to be absolutely contemporary. His subtle artistic gestures are substantially formed out of the cultural source of his Latin American home, which clashes with West European visual languages just as it does with our profane everyday life. Aesthetic precision and intellectual openness – for Rodrigo Hernandez they are mutually dependent and ultimately result in a subjective voice for a mute message – as delicate artistic markings between worlds.
Rodrigo Hernández, Every forest madly in love with the moon has a highway crossing it from one side to the other, 2016
Installation view, kurimanzutto, Mexico City
Roos Gortzak, Pedro
A little blue ball. I walk over to it to see the room-installation by Rodrigo Hernandez for Raum für aktuelle Kunst in Luzern from this almost centre, but off-centre point. It is hanging in front of my eyes, like a third eye, but instead of enabling me to see the installation, consisting of six objects that I’m surrounded by, it is doing something else. It is making me feel, to loosely quote Rene Magritte from Les mots and les images (which Hernandez shows in the other room as referential material), that “there are others behind it”. But I cannot see them, which is disorienting. And the little blue ball itself also refuses to be seen – in a similar way to Op Art and Kinetic Art. A gesture of the simplest technology pointing out something about this installation that remains out of reach.
For a second, you might be put onto another track when seeing the material in a separate “documentation” room, usually used for the opening cocktail. There is a table upon which drawings, notes, photocopies of references and maps are placed under glass plates – a second installation by Hernandez. Especially his drawing of the origin of his six objects, obliquely deriving from some of the art works in Harald Szeemann’s When Attitudes Become Form (1969), triggers a detective process. As if it was about finding out that the two empty paper cups, one placed inside of the other on the floor, echoes Bill Bollinger’s “Pipes”, two identical objects placed onto the floor in Szeemann’s show. But soon enough, and luckily so, this map, seen along the rest of the material, refuses to be understood as a conceptual anchor for the installation in the other room and and then escapes its function as text.
The same goes for the “found” objects in the show – which Hernandez prefers to name “re-found”, as he conceptualizes them first and then goes out to find them in the city or in his home-studio. The wooden box, the tin can, the paper cups are emptied out, turned upside down, devoid of the function they once had. Together with his hand-made objects (the above-mentioned ball, a hanging cable, a head) they all seem to have lost the ability to reach each other, and the same feeling infiltrates the way they seem to try connecting with the visitor. In this quasi-dialogue the intention of reading is suspended and the connection to a ground appears lost (in a similar way that the red cable hangs from the ceiling without quite touching the surface). Then we find a head lying on the floor, disembodied, empty, with open eyes and slightly smiling.