Victor Rodríguez and
the revival of the Hyper-realism.
By Raquel Tibol
Among the new forms of the
figurative that arose after Pop Art, hyper-realism
has polarized opinions more than most with respect
to its aesthetic validity. It is also been called
radical realism, photo realism, ultra-realism and
even precisionism. Veritable and exact representation,
the dependency on photography (pre-existing or taken
ad hoc), the restoration of certain traditional
values, the subjection of the eye to a deceptive
fidelity, the always magnified real dimension, prompted
many to describe hyper-realism as artifice and regard
its postulates with some susupicion. Its detractors
predicted its eclipse in less than a decade from
its appearance. Indeed, its wanings, which occurred
in various periods, were temporary. Hyper-realism,
as a changing aesthetic system with its own stylistic
pluralism has won the attention, over and over again,
of a demanding segment of the public. A segment
that has appreciated in it the concord of art and
design, of invention and document and of a time
that always inserts itself into the present.
Hyper-realism took off in the U.S. and gained prestige
in Europe in only six years. It was heralded in
the exhibition entitled The Photographic Image,
presented in 1966 at the Guggenheim in New York.
Within three years, there was sufficient production
for two establishing exhibition: Paintings from
photo at the Riverside Museum and Aspects of a New
Realism at the Milwaukee Art Center. In 1970, hyper-realismearned
places at the Whitney and at the Montreal Museum.
In 1972, New York's prestigious Sidney Janis Gallery
showeda carefully mounted selection entitled Sharp-focus
realism, whereas at the documenta V, Kassel, Germany,
it was situated as one of the most outstanding innovations
of the moment, worldwide.
Suddenly, in 1996, when hyper-realism was no longer
questioned, Victor Rodriguez pleasantly surprised
the judges at the XVI National Meeting of Young
Artists in Aguascalientes, (I was one of the five),
his colleagues and viewers of all levels. His Gran
cabeza/Big head (acrylic/canvas, 2m x 2m) of a woman
with her tongue out and a fly on her cheek, had
been executed with steel graver and brush a year
before. Its attributes reveal not only a clear consciousness
of style but also a daring determination to recycle
it. The latter was an implicit promise that he has
amply fulfilled, with effort and excellent results,
demonstrated by his oeuvre from 1988 to 1999, and
now presented at the Galería Enrique Guerrero.
The OED defines recycling as a "consistent
operation subjecting a material again to a total
or partial cycle of treatment, when the change in
that material turns out to be incomplete".
This definition may be applied to Victor Rodríguez'
efforts. If hyper-realism's preponderant characteristic
was its distancing, he would make it intimate. If
the first hyper-realism had confronted conceptual
art he would assimilate it to the extent that he
could overlap the two languages. If subservience
to photography yielded a more or less traditional
pictorial language, he would approach solutions
characteristic of advertising posters and the constant
renewal of design favored by digitization. He would
never use pre-existing document, for the camera
would serve to fix the premeditated acts of his
model. Photography would not be of crucial assistance,
but merely a step in a process in which no fragment
should renounce allegorical allusion that, added
to the present, would reveal secrets of intimacy
characteristic of women and men. Naturalism and
realism would be cleansed of any tendency to return
to the past, so as to commit to the path of new
expressions achieved by new techniques.
The present series by Victor Rodríguez is
the result of a systematic plan obedient to peremptory
codes applied to more intimate spheres of the artist's
subject (mostly the same women with the fly on her
cheek, the artist's companion). They are fully identical
with the impulse to undertake simple or baroque
intimacy with a variety of approaches and with no
concessions to Puritanism. Immediate and even prosaic
existence reaffirms a vitality of temporal feelings.
Rodríguez manipulates the transitory and
his tactic consists in converting vulgarity into
subtlety, a decontextualized and therefore provocative
subtlety, that questions the scope of dignity. His
images are not lacking in psychological research.
He delivers no judgements, but imposes a double
reading on the viewer: the reality represented and
the list of rules intended to constrain it.
Three paintings with explicit references to art,
one executed by Victor Rodríguez and the
other two by his wife, stimulate particular interest.
The acrylic Buen artista/Good artist operates as
an aphorism. He, like Van Gogh, cuts off his ear.
On his head, a white mushroom, shaped like a brain,
contains a peanut. However good an artist one may
be or become, one has to have a peasized brain to
cut off one's ear after argument over aesthetic
questions with an esteemed colleague. Was Van Gogh
a "good artist"? Victor Rodríguez
seem to ask himself and he answers himself: yes,
he was; but it seems absurd that someone capable
of concentrating his inventive force on chromatic
expressions and in generating color as an intimate
experience, would offer his ear on the altar of
polemics. That passionate outburst, Victor Rodríguez
metaphorically, does not make him any less an artist,
as he himself wants to be, though does not set aside
the possibility of extreme irritability as a result
of his vocation. Mrs. Rodríguez' Libro de
Arte/Art Book focuses on a catalogue by Gerhard
Richter. Richter is a German artist who stands out
for the versatility of his production in the panorama
of new artistic behavior from the "New savages
to the trans-vanguards". This is true also
because he is among those who accentuate pop and
the urban scene in their hyper-realistic proposal,
even to the point of neo-expressionism. Obliquely,
Victor Rodríguez admits to being informed
of the various options within the tendency he pursues
and that he is prepared to practice by contributing
his own voice or experimentally.
In Vándala/Vandal (femenine) Mrs. Rodríguez,
her head covered with an Andean cap and her hand
in a black wool glove, inconsiderately paints Dali-like
moustaches on a poster portrait of a movie star.
There is in this an evocative sense of Marcel Duchamp
farse. The Latin American vandal displays scandalous
Dadaist activity in a hyper-realistic composition,
the photographic model for which was taken one winter
day in New York. The combination of information
is convincing proof that Victor Rodríguez
has indeed recycled hyper-realism by making the
effort to precisely reproduce a multiplicity of
experiential and cultural contents.