Artist Ritchard Rodriguez described his work in an interview we did a few years ago as having "a musical rhythm" and with his solo show opening Saturday, May 6 at The House of Arts in North Wynwood, the 24 oil paintings in "Reticence & Transparency (Des Nuages)" certainly speak to that imagery.
When we spoke in 2020, Rodriguez had talked about how he had lived for years in New York City, and now makes Miami his home moving here in 2019.
The work at The House of Arts includes paintings from pre- and post-COVID and also works created during the lockdown. He says they all touch on themes of "Hope."
Curator of the show, Jade Matarazzo, says that "using a specific time of life: before, during and post pandemic, the artist's work reflects mixed emotions that share a common thread – what is revealed and what is concealed."
Rodriguez wanted to be a comic-book illustrator growing up, but by the time he graduated from New York's prestigious High School of Art & Design in Manhattan he was an oil painter, and he's been that ever since, he says.
"Early on in my life at age 10, I picked up my very first comic book, an 'Iron Man' story from Marvel, not giving attention to its artist (or any comic book artist, for that matter, at the time").
He says when he entered the High School of Art & Design, he wanted to become a "progressive penciler during the industry's renaissance." But when he bought a box of oil paints, all that changed.
"I graduated a painter," he says. "I was a realist for a good fifteen years, trained within the ways of the old masters by my late mentor, Gilbert Stone, primarily seduced by the Dutch." Then, during an eight-year residency in Europe, he says he discovered the works of American abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell.
"Mitchell, among a few others, eventually fed my emancipation from the restrictions of academic realist, in time jumping off the cliff of a comfort zone with a hang glider of my own invention, without regrets." Now he describes his works as "spontaneously executed."
In the current show, Rodriguez's "Fear" series is represented. He says that his musical idol, singer-songwriter John Cale, in 1974, sang "Fear's a Man's Best Friend." In 1990, the song inspired the artist to "tackle" five small paintings with "Fear" in their titles. "These were the first of many more batches painted ever since," he says. All in collections in Monaco, Paris, Grenoble, Brittany, San Francisco, Harrisburg, New York City, Miami, Meersburg, Verona and others.
"It would appear the titles and aesthetics resonate with many, yet not negatively, my work remaining about Hope: Fear of Religion, Fear of Fear, of Holding On, of Awareness, of Ignorance."
He admits that he stares often at the centerpiece of the series, "Fear of Idleness (2022)." Rodriguez says he suspects that it is a self-portrait of sorts.
There is much that inspires Rodriguez's work and some of it is about music. "Sometimes The Silence Can Be Like Thunder," was inspired by the Bob Dylan song, "Love Sick." With its deep blues and swirls accentuating action, Rodriguez says he was fascinated by Miami's amazing nocturnal lightning storms. Its bookend, "Silence," exclusively uses black and white. In contrast to the bold blues in the other "Silence," Rodriguez explains that this piece captures the "night's lack of color."
"Des Nuages" is incorporated into the title of the show. "Yes, 'Clouds,' although I prefer the ring of its name in French, which I borrowed from an instrumental piece of music by guitar wiz Robert Fripp. From the moment I made Miami my new home, I’ve been awestruck by its skies, cloud formations, especially on its hottest and most humid days. These creatures soar up majestically, vertically, catching sunlight in its entire splendor, at dawn, dusk, at night during storms, and I just relish it all in."
Also concerned with the environment, another piece in the show, "Conflagration," with its fiery reds, meditates on the beauty of a roaring fire, but also wildfires out of control around the globe due to climate change.
"It serves as a Requiem for the billions of wildlife tragically lost (especially during Australia's wildfires in 2019-2020)...further evidence of man’s contribution to the climate change killing our poor planet and its inhabitants."
"Ritchard Rodriguez Solo Exhibition: Reticence & Transparency (Des Nuages)" opens Saturday, May 6 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at The House of Arts (North Wynwood), 100 NW 36th St., Miami. The show runs through Tuesday, June 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. For information, (833) 624-7753 or thehouseofarts.com.