Rocío Rodríguez

Fay Gold Gallery

Rocío Rodríguez has been exploring the complexities of tangled skeins of lines in her painting for a while now. In an untitled series of paintings from 2003–2004, the intertwinings read as plant forms; presented against neutral grounds, they resemble botanical illustrations. In her current, much denser abstract compositions, the suggestion is of cartography, though Rodríguez’s expressive schemas map not just cities but also bodily, psychological, and political terrains.

Terminus . . . Atlanta (all works 2007)—the title includes the city’s original name and its current one—is a large palimpsest of shapes, each layer all but obliterating the previous ones. The dominant color is an orange-brown suggestive of the Georgia clay on which the city is built, and that is revealed anew with each fresh wave of construction. What presumably represents a grid of streets on the painting’s right-hand side also suggests a human rib cage, while a thick black line that snakes up the center is one of many intestinal forms to appear in Rodríguez’s work. The painting thus evokes the city’s history of self-erasure and reconstruction and proposes a metaphoric view of the metropolis as a body continually cut open and stitched back together.

The palette of some works closely resembles that of maps, disparate but repeated colors differentiating one section from another. In The Country Inside, the most explicitly cartographic sections are off-white, crisscrossed by dark veins that could define streets and buildings. These lighter passages weave through flat areas of brown and looping black intestinal forms. Given the title, and the general resemblance of the off-white areas to maps of Cuba, Rodríguez’s country of origin, the painting may suggest the ways geography is internalized and entangled with psychology to inform personal identity.

Rodríguez uses another palette in some works, however, one in which ocher and cadmium red feature prominently and that strongly recalls Philip Guston’s paintings of the 1950s. Guston, too, had an interest in maps, as evidenced by works such as Zone, 1953–54, and The Street, 1956. In both, areas of color emerging from light gray surrounds suggest concentrations of streets or buildings. But if Guston’s paintings are Abstract Expressionist takes on the representational conventions of printed maps, Rodríguez drags the style into the age of Google Earth. Typically, online maps present dense welters of information: One can see aerial views, street-level views, and intimate close-ups side by side on the same screen. Rodríguez’s paintings similarly combine different views. The conventional aerial view still seems to dominate, but different areas appear as if shown at different scales, revealing different densities of pattern and texture.

Rodríguez employs this Guston-like palette in two paintings whose titles engage provocatively with geopolitics: Rogue State and The Round City, Baghdad. In the former, the looping lines rendered elsewhere in black are painted in vivid red, making them more explicitly gutlike. Exactly which (or what kind of) state is being identified as rogue is unclear, but the red lines violently disrupt and obliterate the more delicately limned adjacent zones. The Round City similarly evokes violence, as the contour of Baghdad is rendered in smeared, bloody-looking strokes and clotted points.

Philip Auslander