For his third solo exhibition at Thomas Jaeckel Gallery, Cuban artist Elio Rodriguez returns with a new selection of his signature wall-mounted soft sculptures, including a large-scale diptych completed on the eve of the show’s installation. Fashioned in with nontraditional, factory-made materials including upholstery fabrics, zippers, and buttons, his pieces contain the same sense of mystery and vitality as the Afro-Cuban jungle paintings of his earlier compatriot Wifredo Lam, whose work he directly references in Jungla Desnuda (2021), a reimagining of Lam’s famous 1943 masterpiece The Jungle. Rodriguez’s abiding interest in working in ambivalent conceptual spaces—teetering between the natural and the artificial, the familiar and the unknown, the obvious and the hidden—grants his sculptures an aura of whimsy and wonder without veering too far into the uncanny.
Elio Rodriguez was born in 1966, and lives and works in Spain. His practice is engaged with the system of judgments about a person, a culture or phenomenon. Tapping the prism of Caribbean popular culture, its underlying humor and clichés formed about the culture, he builds witty and sensual works that seemingly incarnate that reality, and subtly and continuously question it. The ambivalence of genres is key to understanding the essence of his work. Rodriguez conceives a game of illusions with the viewer using the language of form and surface — and ultimately reveals traces of doubt in the identity of a concept or an image. His practice encompasses painting, installations, sculptures, prints, ceramics, and soft sculpture interacting with chosen objects, his style referring to marks of Caribbean popular craftwork.
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