Publications about artist Miguel Rodez and his artwork
Vivian Donnell Rodriguez,
Opening remarks at the unveiling of "Portrait of Joaquin"
regarding Miguel Rodez artwork
Whether it is created as a painting, photograph or sculpture, a truly well-crafted and successful portrait is not just a faithful likeness or representation of a person. A great portrait, the ones that carry impact and that we remember, gives us an open window into the inner existence, the soul, the mysteries of the subject being portrayed. Think Mona Lisa, Da Vinci's beautiful and transcendent portrait and probably the most famous portrait in art history. We can't seem to get her out of our minds.
Aristotle said, "the aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance, for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality".
And so it is with the portraits that remain in our memory, which linger, which make us cry, which haunt our thoughts long past when our eyes have stopped looking at them.
The portrait has a long and rich tradition in the history of art. From ancient times through present, we have sought to represent both the real and the imaginary best that is in us. We have wanted to record in some tangible way that we as individuals were here at one time, made ourselves felt and left our mark. I will speak only of two specific points in history which, in my opinion, were particularly critical turning points in the way we approached portraiture.
Whereas portraits had been created throughout history, the Renaissance saw the re-invention of portraits like no other time before it. Portraits had been idealized versions of man, representing, for the most part the sacred or the regal. In the Renaissance, an interest in the natural world, a re-discovery of the classical art of Greece and Rome and a recognition of man as an important part of that world, saw depictions of earthly success and status in the form of portraits take center stage like never before.
The second turning point occurred several hundred years later in the 19th century with the development of photography. Photography literally revolutionized the idea of the portrait. Baudelaire called photography "an enemy of art", but eventually came to embrace the new technology that we later recognized as art itself. And, there you are all before me snapping away with your smart phones taking stills and video. However, whereas we now have the ability to take portraits and "selfies" to document every important and the not-so-important moment, there are few portraits which we remember past the second that we have viewed them.
And so it is appropriate that this work by Miguel Rodez that we will unveil today began with just such a memorable black and white photographic portrait by Miami photographer Delio Regueral. We are fortunate to have that photograph here in the gallery tonight and I urge you to take the time to see it fully for it is a beautiful portrait in and of itself. It is a powerful and wonderful image - a testament to both the photographer and the subject. And we are fortunate as well to have the subject of the photograph and painting here with us tonight - Joaquin Estrada-Montalvan. Joaquin is a historian, cultural writer and philosopher, a social scientist, man of faith, professor and writer. Clearly, a complex individual with a rich and diverse internal life. A thoughtful academic with a quiet outward demeanor which belies the strength of his thinking and convictions. It has been said that portraits are best viewed through the eyes, that herein lies the mirror to the soul. I think that you will all agree that the artist has captured the various layers of his subject with just that intensity and vision.
And so we come to the painter of "Joaquin". I first met Miguel Rodez in 1993 when he joined the board of Miami Dade Art in Public Places which I directed. I knew him then as an attorney with a passion for culture, human rights and art in all its forms. Three years later he was chair of that same board and we had become friends. Only years later, after we had both moved on to other public interests and positions, did I learn of Miguel's work in photography, drawing, sculpture and painting. The work was always thoughtful, multi-layered and intriguing. He was clearly interested, and still is, in the dialogue that can be generated by art within the community, and among artists and others. It was not surprising, then, to see that he would be taking a major step in that direction by opening a gallery and studio to showcase the work of other artists as well as his own.
The portrait titled, "Joaquin" which we will see in a just a few minutes sought to capture the inner complexity of a single individual using a style that has become Miguel's own, a realism that is multi-layered, calculated and passionate. It is monumental in scale and vibrates with both texture and richness of color and palette re-defining the subject in a powerful way.
Vivian Donnell Rodriguez, The Unveiling of "Joaquin" (Opening Remarks), El Lugareno, May 21, 2014, http://www.ellugareno.com/2014/05/the-unveiling-of-joaquin-opening.html
Vivian Donnell Rodriguez is an Art Historian, who served as an Art History professor at the Miami Art Institute and as the Director of Art in Public Places at Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Comment by Frank Padron: re Miguel Rodez artwork
“It's amazing when an artist puts his heart and soul into each painting. Rodez is a professional in every way, he treats each painting as if it were going to a museum. The detail in this painting (Pilar Remembers) is the product of his dedication.” Frank Padron, at Miguel Rodez, Timeline, Facebook, September 2, 2017, at 8:53 am. Frank Padron was an Art Collector and Gallerist who also authored books on Cuban Art.
"Snapping the Chains that Bind ..." a review of Miguel Rodez's artwork by Art Critic Carlos Suarez de Jesus
Nelson Mandela’s harsh years in prison taught him something about the indomitable will of the spirit. He said of his experience: “For to be free is not merely to cast of one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.
For artist and activist Miguel Rodez, the contemporary symbolism associated with chains; the notion that they evoke solely slavery, bondage, limitation and restriction are contradictory.
Although he has experienced the severest examples of human cruelty in his professional sphere, Rodez, not unlike Mandela himself, also equates the chain as a symbol of familial unity, spiritual and psychic integration, of communication and loyalty.
Perhaps most importantly he sees it as emblematic of hope, for this artist it represents humanity’s birthright of liberation and soul-freedom that hinders us from blindly rupturing those fetters we unknowingly bind ourselves with to keep from living our lives to the fullest in an often unforgiving world.
In his new series of work, “Imagining Liberation,” Rodez creates minimalist paintings in which he employs the image of chain links as a theoretical framework through which to explore the dangers and confines of the domestic world and contemporary society.
Reductive in nature, the chain themselves often appear twisted, at times with their links broken and organically wrought, almost as if the artist leaves the viewer’s imagination open to interpreting them as the description of a struggling body.
Rodez’s paintings are executed with rich textures. He covers his surfaces with a brash range of unexpected color-combinations veering from bold primary royal blues and crimson reds to more understated sun-baked ochers and bleached-bone grays.
Unmoored from a contextual setting, Rodez’s shattered chains float against deep space. The artist subtly lures spectators into a weightless cosmos to complete the effect.
He appeals to the senses to affect perceptions inviting spectators to sort out the connotations behind his deconstructed imagery, provoking psychological and emotional responses and individual reactions from separate viewers in turn.
The reductive, serial quality of this series is deceptively simple while intrinsically profound. These works succeed in evoking the sublime through monochromatic forms, effortless beauty, tactile surfaces, and range of scale. Rodez’s distinctive pieces are frequently austere, curved forms, usually monochromatic and brightly hued. They allude to, and play with, dualities, earth-sky, matter-spirit, lightness-darkness, visible-invisible, conscious-unconscious, male-female and body-mind.
Rodez addresses the vulnerability of the individual in relation to the violence inherent in institutional power structures in ways that refer to displacement, exile or the devastation of loss caused by war.
The political possibilities for Rodez’s uncanny visual motif are relevant to his work. Stripped down to its most fundamental features, the artist’s broken chains represent a person who feels trapped by a set of circumstances.
For the viewer, the disruption achieved at a psychological level, can have broader implications involving power, politics or individual concerns. The allusiveness attained by his striking canvases is not always referencing grand political events, or appealing to a generalized cultural consciousness, but instead to a seemingly unattainable threat that is only possible to address on an individual scale.
For Rodez these circumstances might be “religious, societal, unbearable working conditions, even a bad marriage, or anything that interferes with liberty,” he observes. “Who among us has never experienced that helpless feeling, for whatever reason?”
Instead of conveying a sense of instability and restlessness in his work, through the process of much thought, Rodez captures the spirit of Mandela’s sentiment.
Having worked as an Asylum Officer for the United States Federal Government since 1994, the unassuming, meditative artist eschews trumpeting the cries of pain of those he has seen suffering with his own eyes across the farthest reaches of the globe.
“In a solitary moment of reflection, this unfortunate soul delves into the realm of dreams to find the abstract realization of hope; the moment of rupture; the objective of his desire; the moment when freedom is gained. It is an imagined triumph of hope over oppression,” Rodez concludes.
Perhaps the artist’s lasting achievement is challenging the viewer in quietly engaging ways that trigger deep personal associations and a search for meaning once confronted by his work.
Carlos Suarez de Jesus, Snaping the Chains that Bind, Catalog Text about Miguel Rodez's Imagine Liberation Series, April 27, 2011.
Carlos Suarez De Jesus is an independent Art Critic who served as Art Critic for the Miami New Times.
Commentary on subjects photographed in Thailand by contemporary artist Miguel Rodez
Article featuring two large format photographs by Miguel Rodez taken during a 5-months period that he spent in Thailand. Irreversible Magazine staff writer, Holy lotus buds and Golden Buhda from Chiang Mai, Miguel Rodez Thailand photography, Irreversible Magazine, June 12, 2010, Pages 40 –42, https://issuu.com/norelkysb/docs/irr_june10_small_