| by Aldo Menéndez
It is very difficult to write about Rubén Rodríguez (Cárdenas, Matanzas, 1959), especially after such an extraordinary critique by Orlando Hernández—surely one of our most comprehensive analysts—published in the catalog for Rubén’s personal exhibition, “Cripta” (Crypt; Galeria Habana, February, 1991). An exhibition, which reclaimed his forms and work as a part of the 80’s; since it’s inception the proposals from this artist and a small group of colleagues—for their individuality and particular hallmark—were marginalized from the epochal clamor directed or concentrated on the arte de la ruptura (Breakaway Art as its known in English), which questioned and exerted the criticism of art itself, of the political, social and ethical.
When I surrendered myself to the adventure of opening an artistic screen-print workshop back in 1983, Rubén was among the first to join the company, remaining one of it’s founders. Immediately my attention was drawn to something that emerged from his character; he seemed to conform more to street culture than the institutional, as well as a nature, which locks beneath seven bolts a countless number of emotional battles and existential anguish, along with his artistic works they revealed the almost absolute expressive predominance of his drawing, that with practice and time, implicitly dominates, achieving a well established trade that makes it seem spontaneous, when in reality it responds to a consummated control of gesture and composition, and what is vital to a general design of discursive spaces.
Based on these graphic presumptions, it is easy to make a mistake and link him to the work of Servando Cabrera—a referent undoubtedly present in Rubén—however, in my opinion, the drawings and paintings of his teacher were generally completely ornamental or desperately contrived, save for a few exceptions produced around 1970 when Servando remained under the blessed influence of De Kooning. I concur with Orlando Hernández that Rubén and the expressive universe of his strokes—at the national level—correspond better with those of Wifredo Lam and Ángel Acosta León.
Within the history of Modern Art, I find certain parallels with approaches that Egon Shiele took from his guide Gustav Klimt, evolving them to the heat of the implict mockery in his sensuality, which intensifies the dramatic force to the grotesque, ravishing the conventional physical forms adopting fragmentation, enforcing foreshortening and at the same time, flat planes. From his viewpoint, Rubén manages to disarrange the real proportions of their bodies that respond to the excesses and exaggerations provoked by carnal desire, unimaginable couplings as well as implicit and conceivable fetishisms in the rapturous morphology—to the Cuban, without any crude drama.
If the stages of Rubén’s departure are marked by an intimacy that came to brush against the occult, with an impervious lyric of pessimnistic tinge and symbolism in the matter of licentiousness which combined perfectly with religiosity—in the end the indelible mark—the key to his originality lay in this, in the artistic, that which makes it flexible driving it from the shadows towards the light.
I think that this change begins to reveal itself after 2004, with his exhibit Proverbs and Initiations (Galeria Habana), there in some pieces he already gambles on introducing clear atmospheres (dispelled). This new direction greatly values simplicity and textural quality above color and when it does participate, it is limited to dyeing an area or giving a subtle or intermittent accent. Rubén goes from submerging himself in complex ruminations; and today, the artist within him—not an intellectual either—seeks happiness on earth or in his most volptuous fantasies, by which he exhibits and airs sexual pleasures without shame, describing games of possession, schemes and debauchery that the consented never constitute as depravations, reflecting passion and the liberties which the seducer allows himself; he himself has said to believe: “…in eroticism as the lifeblood of existence,” situating himself in the libido line of psychoanalysis, which erects a source of pleasure, especially aphrodisiacs, the fundamental impulse and creative force of vital energy.
This change that had its prehistory in the great human fears, in the lack of answers and terrible disagreements, now consents to harmony, even the approach nods towards ornamentation to the extent that the aesthetic shoots. The sequence of the change is followed through his exhibits: Amulets, 2006, Galeria Palacio de Lombillo; Camas Ocupadas, 2008, Galeria Origenes; Paños Negros Rojos y Blancos, 2015, Galeria Villa Manuela and Aventuras del Cuerpo, 2016, Galeria Arche.
At this point, Rubén tends to capture and interpret us, the movements, vibrations and rhythms which shape his obsessions; this revival has made his textures want to offer, more and more, the illusion and sensation of skin—a basic and instinctive ingrediant in intercourse—his bill is such, that it elicites the viewer to touch, to caress the medium; paper and cloth with the qualities of velvet flesh.
Rubén arrives at the Kendall Art Center in Miami with a budding vision, gifting us answers through a kaleidoscopic corporal language, comprised of the infinite postures with which the act allows us to further approach the sublime. Introducing him is enriching for me, that I have the honor to curate the show and for this institution whose founder, collector Leo Rodríguez, has always been guided by his open perception of our art, which from this offshore promotional platform, seeks to broaden his historical understanding without the usual deformities and gaps that generate hatred and certain established interests.
The exhibition will continue until Mar 29, 2019