Jorge Rodríguez-Aguilar

Article Bio Works Projects Images
Visual Arts (installation art, painting, sculpture)
America, South
Brazil, Colombia
Barranquilla, Rio de Janeiro, Santafé de Bo
created on:
May 12, 2003
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Recycling as an aesthetic weapon

Born in 1960 in Barranquilla in Columbia, Jorge Rodríguez-Aguilar is concerned in his works with the pop-culture of Columbia in particular and of Latin America in general. Stimulated by the rich aesthetic inventions of simple people, he develops remarkable artefacts like constructivist fetishes from various, often unusual materials and vulgar colours. A central theme of his work is daily violence, which is treated sarcastically in his installation "From the Knife to the Wheelbarrow - our daily Bread".
Jorge Rodríguez-Aguilar studied sculpture for several years in the USA and gained important impressions for his work while living and travelling in Europe and Africa. About his artistic concept he writes in an unpublished manuscript: "Since 1989 I have been researching and developing my sculptural work, for which the values and aims of popular and tribal aesthetics in Latin America and Africa have served as a starting point. In this personal choice of task, expression is given to a fusion of modern and pop-culture, conveying its images in an authentic and direct way. My search is a questioning of modern visual codes and criteria of value which have been set up by centres of Western art and brought to us by history. I revise these criteria by working with relationships which come closer to our reality and by considering how they could be related or compared to those of other lands."

After Rodríguez-Aguilar´s return to Columbia at the start of the 90s, he began to think intently about his country´s problems, especially about the violence and social tensions to be sensed on his travels there. For his aesthetic recycling he has drawn inspiration from everyday objects and ornaments, such as are to be found in private homes but also in vehicles like buses and lorries. Depending on its origins - regional and ethnic, urban and pastoral - the variety of folk culture is enormous:

"The artist uses one or another element or symbol from the Indian groups, the black communities and the settlements of land-owners, the groups reprocessing old materials in the cities, the shoe-cleaning guilds, the street-salesmen on the coast and the religious niches... to recombine them into sculptural objects whose attraction lies precisely in the magical way in which the wood, scrap metal, fur and metallic figures ornamenting buses are related to one another," writes the art critic Maria Claudia Parias. (Die Neubewertung der volkstümlichen Ästhetik, Bogotá 1995)

In the outdoor sculpture "Bacanería reciclable", Rodríguez-Aguilar tries in an abstract way to grasp the aesthetics of vehicles used by urban nomads reprocessing paper, glass, plastic and metal on the streets of Bogota. Due to their various, often unusual materials and vulgar colours, especially mint-green, village-pink and yellow-ochre, many of Rodriguez-Aguilar´s artefacts look like fetishes but belong to the modern tradition of constructivism. Their names are inventive concoctions like Puyaiunde, Chilapoira, Guasamaya or Triki-Traki.

Since the mid-90s Rodriguez-Aguilar has mostly been making complex installations like the one from 1996-7 shown in the exhibition "Die anderen Modernen" ("The other Modernities") in the House of World Cultures in Berlin and called "De la lesna al changón - el pan nuestro de cada día". He was inspired to make this work by a report of weapons taken on the streets and in jails in Santafé de Bogota. He was so fascinated by the "technically happy-go-lucky" and "catchy" designs that he decided to copy these "home-made" weapons in his own way and make them part of an installation. This is a wooden stall containing fictive weapons of all kinds including food-, toy- and emasculated weapons like machine-pistols which are directly or ironically related to violence. It is meant to draw attention on the one hand to daily violence, which thanks to familiarity and passivity is often hardly noticed any more, and on the other hand to the creative potential of ordinary folk in Columbia. The work was shown at Art Frankfurt in 1998 as well as in the gallery Ruta Correa at the end of 1999. The latter exhibition was accompanied by the catalogue "La Illusion - Conciencias limpias" ("The Illusion - pure Conscience") as well as a small series of hand-guns of a special kind.

During three months in Berlin in 1997, Rodríguez-Aguilar made a further series of experimental works with a relationship to violence, the "Beschwörungsgläser" ("Invocation Glasses"), whose title is derived from miracle cures and superstitions among Africans and Indians. The work is made up of a series of bottles of various shapes and sizes, which are filled with oil and other things gathered by the artist on Berlin´s flea-markets. According to its contents, each bottle adds another metaphorical link to the chain of associations.

After moving to Brazil, Rodríguez-Aguilar made a small installation with toy weapons forbidden due to their likeness to the real thing. He had changed them by using a collage of banknotes and metaphorical illustrations. His most recent project is entitled "Realidades ambulantes/Realidades estagnadas" ("Mutable Realities/Immutable Realities") and is about hopeless violence in Rio de Janeiro. As a metaphor is shown a wheelbarrow on which sweets in the form of weapons and pistols made of rusty iron and wax in phallic forms are on sale. The wheels cannot be moved.
Author: Michael Nungesser 


Born in 1960 in Barranquila in Columbia, Jorge Rodríguez-Aguilar studied from 1981-2 at the Texas A & I University in Kingsville, from 1983-5 at the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth (gaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree) and from 1986-9 sculpture and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia. Within the framework of his study at PAFA he received many awards and grants like in 1986 the Charles A. Weiner Prize for sculpture, in 1986, 1987 and 1989 the Mary Townsend and William Clarke Mason memorial prize for sculpture and in 1988 the J. Henry Schiedt memorial prize. In 1989 the mayor of Philadelphia gave him the prize for outstanding achievement in the visual arts. In 1988 he went on study-trips to England, Belgium and Kenya, where he spend two months and grew interested in pop and tribal aesthetics.

From 1990-2 he taught at the Academy of Arts at Javeriana University in Santafé in Bogotá, and in 1991 he was awarded a grant by the Delfina Studios in London. Beginning with Bogotá, his study of popular aesthetics went out to embrace other cities and pastoral areas, and he joined the research-group Expedición Humana, with which he went to see communities of blacks, native American Indians and land-owners. In 1998 he moved to Rio de Janeiro and taught at the Escuela de Artes del Parque Lage, then in 1999 he taught at the Universidad de Campinas in São Paulo. In 2000 he was a member of the research-group Caminho das Aguas, with which he travelled along the river São Francisco.

Jorge Rodriguez-Aguilar lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.


Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2002 "Backstage Into View“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Freiburg, Germany 2000 "Dissonances“, Centre Régional d´Art Contemporain, Montbéliard, France 1998 "Art Frankfurt“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 1997 "The Other Modernism“, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany 1996 "Art Frankfurt“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Frankfurt am Main, Germany "Revisiones a la historia“, Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño, Bogota, Columbia 1995 "Art Frankfurt“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Frankfurt am Main, Germany "Generación intermedia. 9 de los noventa“, Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendano, Bogota, Columbia "Arte y objeto”, Museo de Arte Moderno, Bucaramanga, Columbia "Arte para Bogotá“, Galería del Planetario Distrital, Bogota, Columbia 1994 "XXXV. Salón Nacional de Artistas“, Colcultura, Bogota, Columbia "Tandem - lejos del equilibrio”, Galería Sextante, Bogota, Columbia "Juguetes“, Galería El Museo, Bogota, Columbia "El bodegón”, Galería Arteria, Barranquilla, Columbia 1993 "Actitudes”, Galería de Arte Contemporáneo Jenni Vilá, Cali, Columbia "Sommer 93. Dreidimensional”, Galerie Ruta Correa, Freiburg, Germany "Arte Contemporáneo y Cultura Popular”, Museo de Arte Moderno, Cartagena, Columbia 1992 "Gathering. 13 Columbian Artists in London“, Canning House, London, Great Britain "XXXIV. Salón Nacional de Artistas“, Colcultura, Bogota, Columbia 1991 "Art Frankfurt“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Frankfurt am Main, Germany "Aspekte lateinamerikanischer Kunst heute”, Rohrbach-Museum, Dotterhausen, Germany 1990 "II. Bienal de Bogotá“, Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogota, Columbia "Aspekte“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Freiburg, Germany 1989 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia, USA Ruth Zafrir Gallery, Philadelphia, USA 1988 Port of History Museum, Philadelphia, USA

Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2000 "Unser täglich Brot“, Galerie Ruta Correa, Freiburg, Germany 1995 Galerie Ruta Correa, Freiburg, Germany 1991 "Jorge Rodrigues-Aguilar“, Galería Garces Velásquez, Bogota, Columbia 1989 University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia, USA


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The other Modernism

Contemporary Art from Africa, Asia & Latin America

(08 May 97 - 27 July 97)
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