Critics’ Picks

Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez, Untitled (Piso de Isaac) (Untitled, [Isaac’s Floor]), 2021, color photographs, 11 × 14".

Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez, Untitled (Piso de Isaac) (Untitled, [Isaac’s Floor]), 2021, color photographs, 11 × 14".


Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez

520 Hargrave Street
October 22–December 19, 2021

Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez’s works here are derived from a small packet of photographs he purchased at a bookshop in Mexico City. Time-stamped between 1987 and 1993, these personal snapshots comprise the lost archive of a young, anonymous, and presumably queer man, seemingly among friends and lovers at costume parties, on vacations, and, in some of the most arresting images on display, staring coolly into the camera’s lens. Various notes and inscriptions may offer clues to his identity, such as “Technoir,” which is written on the back of several photos, and could be the subject’s pseudonym, a private joke, or something else entirely.

Rodríguez invites us to indulge, with him, in the pleasures of projection while feeling the ethical complications of this process worked through in real time. The artist elegantly pairs the sourced snapshots with images from his own archive: A tender bedroom portrait of a sleeping man is superimposed upon Rodríguez’s shot of dreamily lit curtains in an apartment belonging to a guy named Isaac; a shot of “Technoir” vamping in a silk robe mirrors a grainy, touristy picture of Michelangelo’s figure in the sculpture Dying Slave, 1513-16. Other new prints document the found ones piled and splayed on a cutting mat, a framing device that’s also used in the video Portrait: Technoir, 2021, in which two of the artist’s friends rifle through the photos and offer speculative and often contradictory readings of the man’s identity, relationships, and social status, with occasional nudging from the artist.

In the exhibition’s wall text is an excerpt from art historian Miwon Kwon’s writings on Félix González-Torres, in which she describes viewing the Cuban-American artist’s photographs as an invitation to imagine them as scenes from her own life. Rodríguez’s works exploit this tension more explicitly, but ultimately leave the biggest questions unspoken. What happened to “Technoir”? Did he, like Gonzalez-Torres, die of AIDS? We will never know, but it’s our conflicted desire to do so—along with the assumptions that precondition it—that animate this compelling project.