Mythological, entrancing and immersive, Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez’s ‘Feet First’ at Spillway Collective
Sarah Kim writes an enthusiastic review of "Feet First", an interactive video, painting, and sculpture installation about Greek mythology, pain, and healing by Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez at Spillway Collective, 1400 N. American St. The exhibition is up until October 5th, 2019, so run, don't walk, and catch the show ASAP! Email spillway.collective@gmail.com to make an appointment to see the show.

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Joseph Lazarro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being. From "Feet First" at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being. From “Feet First” at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

Last summer while on vacation in Athens, Greece, Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez suffered a fall from a roof deck. The landing left a serious injury to his heel. Connections to Greek mythology emerge in this anecdote: Achilles and his all-vulnerable heel, the fall of Icarus– both tales that link physical trauma with a search for spiritual transcendence. Rodriguez explicitly cites a third myth through text that is superimposed over protea in one hallucinogenic video: that of the Orpheus myth, in which the hero-artist risks a trip to the land of the dead to retrieve his muse.

Twisting and grafting these heroic myths over his own personal experience with pain and healing, Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez celebrates resilience in the face of physical trauma in his new show at Spillway Collective, Feet First, curated by Spillway member Chelsea Nader. Adapting the contours of a spiritual journey into colorful and explosive psychedelia that feels not unlike an endless scroll of Instagram videos, the work nevertheless contains a formal structure in coordination of different visual elements: like a mind demanding order in a chaotic circumstances.

Joseph Lazarro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being. From "Feet First" at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being. From “Feet First” at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

The show is mainly divided into two sections, with a large scale installation of projections dominating much of the space and viewer attention. The work synthesizes sculpture and film through projection mapping and video sliced in oblique angles and shards, reinforcing feelings of disorientation and contusion. Multiple reels cycle through snippets of the Grecian land, sky, and ocean; enactments of Rodriguez running and the fall itself; MRIs of the broken heel and images of cellular regeneration; depictions of birth, rupture, limbs, and beams emitting from the artist’s mouth; and of course, a gigantic image of the heel itself. Projected between several gallery walls and even the floor, images swirl, intercut, and interact with one another throughout the gallery with no clear storyline, providing instead a hyperactive sensory experience. Roughly beginning with footage of Greece, a crucial moment of the video arrives with an image of a pierced heel, while live-action video collapses into kaleidoscopic digitally-enhanced saturation. The artist’s body is penetrated by the external world; exteriority and interiority becomes moot and even reversed, hinted by the image of a foot protruding eerily from the ceiling of a metallic void—a silver sky.

Rupture in this piece doesn’t only denote pain but appears to be physically and creatively generative. Rodriguez cleverly multiplies the representations of openings to link and expand on different ideas–thus, the injury is re-interpreted as spherical portals or sculpted as voids interspersed throughout the space. Hanging by surgical netting like a mystical catch, the sculptures of “bone rings” abstract the image of the wound to a portal through which the artist is constantly entering, exiting, changing and healing. Through another portal, dashed-lines of light emit from Rodriguez’s open mouth. These flashes of energy recall the songs of Orpheus and communicate creative inspiration. The neat beams glide along the walls and architecture of the installation before collecting at a humble obelisk.

Joseph Lazarro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being (detail). From "Feet First" at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being (detail). From “Feet First” at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

Rodriguez calls the whole piece an “Ex-Votos, offerings made to gods in the forms of anatomical shapes as supplications and thanksgivings for wellbeing or healing of the affected limb or organ,” and the obelisk provides a cumulative, reflective monument to his fall and convalescence while echoing the lean form of a bone. Carved with leitmotifs systematized into a kind of alphabet, the obelisk is the quiet center within the frenetic projection, a site of material concreteness and psychological enigma, a consolidation of memory.

Beyond the installation, recent paintings by Rodriguez hang around the space and at the entrance of the gallery. The imagery recycles the curvaceous bone rings/portals and enmeshed forms of the installation in abstract, expressionist modes. There are clear nods to the larger piece such as blue of the sky and ocean, the ubiquitous dashed line. However, these pieces aren’t as successful in their depiction of chaotic psycho-physiological transformation, and depend on the installation for context and effect. The viewer can only gather that Rodriguez still continues to process, seek, and glean meaning from his experience; as humans can only do when faced with the vulnerability of the own body.

Spillway Collective is an artists’ collective seeking to curate and support eclectic and experimental practice. Feet First will run until October 5th 2019.

Spillway Collective, 1400 N. American St., 100 B. By appointment spillway.collective@gmail.com

Joseph Lazarro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being (detail). From "Feet First" at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Joseph Lazaro Rodriguez, The Path to Well Being (detail). From “Feet First” at Spillway Collective. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Tags

crane arts, greek, installation, Joseph Lazarro Rodriguez, mythology, painting, sculpture, Spillway Collective, video

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