Lordy Rodriquez is the living definition of an American. Born in the Philippines, raised in Texas and now living in California, the artist began his artistic exploration into the language of cartography as an undergraduate by reconstructing the States of America via maps. Albeit, maps that were condensed, reshaped and revised based upon his experience of being a naturalized citizen and those long drives between Houston and New York City.
“In the beginning the work looked a lot like maps. I’m not appropriating the image of cartography but the visual language of cartography,” Rodriquez said during a recent artist talk at the Dikeou Collection in Denver where they are hosting an Art Swap exhibition with ArtPace in San Antonio, bringing works from the Texas residency founded by Linda Pace (Pace salsa) to Dikeou in Denver. Rodriquez is one of the artist’s whose works are being shared. While maps may be a launching point for Rodriquez, his work also addresses various subjects that on the surface appear to have nothing to do with cartography and maps, but is somehow connected via the symbolism of cartography.
On view at Dikeou Collection is a grid of small drawings, part of a series of hundreds of drawings that developed out of Rodriquez’s early explorations into cartography. He initially created 55 “state” maps called the States of America that were hand drawn using graphic design markers on very porous printmaking paper that gave them a printed look. The maps all featured certain tropes to give the viewer a level of recognition. For example, each map included an island nation and often the names of places and cities in certain states were used, but the artist fabricated the configuration of borders and created a patchwork of cultural identity for the states. The five extra states Rodriquez created were: Disney, Territory, Hollywood, Internet and Monopoly. It was a decade long project launched from a desire to order the artist and the viewer’s experience of the world.
Texas, the final work he did in the series, doesn’t look like Texas. The state borders Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey and Maine in Rodriquez’s version. It’s a triptych and began with Rodriquez including all the places he has visited and lived, the names of people he had worked with. It became a self-portrait and a translation of personal identity, an autobiographical work.
For his residency at ArtPace in 2001 Rodriquez strapped video camera to the front of a truck and drove out of San Antonio north, south, east and west. The camera however was pointed toward the ground resulting in a video that is mostly nonstop static until the shadow of the camera or the highway lines appear as the driver/artist changes lanes. Looking at the video isn’t important. It’s a road. For Rodriquez the art was about delving into an impressionistic relationship to, rather than a representation of, the landscape. In the end, his final artwork looked like a large compass.
After the States of America series and the ArtPace residency, Rodriquez began eliminating text and the urban language of roads and geologic features in his drawings, which led him to the pared down, focused drawings on view in Art Swap at Dikeou. Some look like maps or geographic features, others like biologic objects or organic shapes found under a microscope. The works are precise and created with markers on the same printmaking paper and are held to the wall with magnetic pins in 20 columns and 5 rows for a total of 100 works.
These intimate yet expansive drawings are explorations in a coded language. They are not much different than the individual elements of the States of America, but hyper-focused and hung together and next to each other in a random order, a less precise map of the micro and macro universe. From the microcosmic elements that make up life to the expansive shapes of the Milky Way and distant stars, Rodriquez’s “Small Drawings” are anything but diminutive.
Art Swap is an exhibition built on the concept of exchanging and sharing ideas. Several works from the Dikeou Collection have been shipped to Artpace in San. In exchange, Artpace has selected works from their artists currently on view in Denver. In addition to Lordy Rodriquez, other artists on view include: E.V. Day, Nathan Carter, Juan Miguel Ramos, Katrina Moorhead, Isaac Julian, Katie Pell and Alex DeLeon.
Through December 30, 2012
The Colorado Building
1615 California Street
Denver, CO 80202