Diego Rodriguez-Warner’s “Honestly Lying” at the MCA Denver is a dazzling museum debut by a young artist in his own hometown. The work on display is smashingly visceral, overloaded with big and colorful collages you can’t ignore. The technique he uses to produce it — covering wood panels with paint and stain like a painter, but also carving into their surfaces the way a printmaker creates a block for printing — is something I’ve never seen before.
That’s not to say the work is fully original. Rodriguez-Warner makes his art by combining a multitude of images from other artists’ toolboxes — what appears to be a snippet of Matisse here, a hint of Picasso there, perhaps something grabbed from a comic, or a sample from a traditional Japanese print. The exact references are vague; it may not be actual Gauguin or Manet or Géricault or Walt Disney soundbites that Rodriguez-Warner employs, but that’s what viewers may believe they see at “Honestly Lying.”
There’s a distinct generational license to it all. Rodriguez-Warner was born in 1986 and this body of work is rooted in an era that integrated graffiti art, Manga comics, murals and, most notably, the musical remix into Western pop culture. He works in the way a DJ does when spinning records, joining together existing, familiar elements so that their edges clash, connect and slightly overlap. Like music blaring in a nightclub, the visual noise never stops. The art samples he taps work as nostalgic, sentimental triggers that keep the audience hooked.
To buy into its legitimacy as museum-quality art is to accept this idea that the taking and remaking of other people’s art is the same as art itself — that the derivative work is as worthy as the original. Rodriguez-Warner is bold to beg a comparison of his talents to those of god-like Matisse — and also, of course, mortally foolish.
There’s no coverup going on here. “All of the things you want to draw already exist,” he said during a talk at the museum last February. So, he mines them from the universe of existing things, takes, steals, cobbles, honors, celebrates — it depends on your point of view. Curator Zoe Larkins, who does a remarkably unbiased job of laying out her artist’s process, included in this show a counter full of actual bits and scraps from Rodriguez-Warner’s studio that he taps into when making models for his larger constructions. …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News