Identity Crisis

Latin American artists confront their own exile -- self-imposed and otherwise -- at the Boca Museum

There are no bare rooms or empty city streets in Rodríguez's paintings, which are almost always crowded with human beings. Indeed, his characters often seem unanchored, cut loose from their moorings, sometimes even free-floating in space. He's referencing, of course, the balseros, or rafters, who have been among his fellow Cubans who fled their homeland for America.

The artist calls his departure from Cuba, at age 14, as "an irremediable rupture of my identity" that entailed a "deep feeling of alienation, of not belonging anywhere." Clearly, his sense of exile is keener than that of any of the artists featured in "Reality and Figuration," and his unresolved feelings permeate his paintings.

Rodríguez's acknowledged influences are Goya and Velásquez, whose work he saw at the Prado in Spain as a teenager, and Goya's more disturbing works obviously made a deep impression on him. The people in Rodríguez's paintings are invariably distorted in some way -- limbs stretched or twisted in ways nature never intended, heads on backward, bodies entwined as they are in photographs of war atrocities.

José Bedia's Polizonte (1999) displays his distinctive tribal imagery
José Bedia's Polizonte (1999) displays his distinctive tribal imagery


On display through November 3. Call 561-392-2500.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton

There are no hints of stability in a typical Rodríguez picture. Everything is in flux, pulled in conflicting directions. The faces of the humans are blank masks that conceal every emotion except perhaps alienation and resignation.

Another Rodríguez influence is French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who is quoted at the beginning of the exhibition: "One makes oneself a visionary by a long, immense, and reasoned disordering of the senses." The artist has taken this credo to heart, embracing chaos in his imagery. Formal composition and other stylistic concerns take a back seat to a feverish urgency in his "Illuminations" series and in The Boat, both of which pay homage to Rimbaud.

It was an inspired decision on the part of the Boca Museum to run "Reality and Figuration" and "Passages" concurrently. The group show documents the breadth of the response of a young generation of Latin American artists to their simultaneously similar and diverse legacies. The Rodríguez exhibition, by contrast, chronicles the intensity with which a single artist -- of the same generation -- pursues his own personal demons in dramatically different ways. Each show enhances the other.

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