Freddy Rodríguez: Early Paintings 1970-1990

22 October 2020 - 8 January 2021
  • As a young artist based in New York, Rodríguez was drawn to Piet Mondrian’s works on view at the Museum of Modern Art and the hard-edge painting of Frank Stella and other contemporary Americans. These antecedents inspired Rodríguez’s own geometric abstractions, which increasingly began to refer to aspects of his own cultural background. His canvases transpose the energy of salsa and Dominican merengue into visual form. The slender life-size paintings evoke couples whose arms and hips sway to the sounds of Caribbean music.

     

    Smithsonian American Art Museum, Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art2013

    As a young artist based in New York, Rodríguez was drawn to Piet Mondrian’s works on view at the Museum...

              Freddy Rodríguez in his studio located at 133 West 22nd (1974) standing alongside

    paintings Danza de Carnaval (1974), Amor Africano (1974), and Untitled (1970)

  • “In 1969, while at FIT I did my first Geometric paintings. I still have some of these paintings. These paintings...

    Freddy Rodríguez looking at his studies in his studio located at 133 West 22nd (1974)

    “In 1969, while at FIT I did my first Geometric paintings. I still have some of these paintings. These paintings were informed by the architecture of the city. I had a job downtown and during my lunch hour I would sketch the buildings around me and later turn them into paintings.”

     

    Rodríguez in conversation with Rocío Aranda-Alvarado (2015)

  • Selected 1970s Preparatory Sketches

  • “In 1972 I sold one of my geometric paintings to the Aldrich Museum in CT for their exhibition “Contemporary Reflections.” Eva Hesse was in the show as well as other well known artists. That painting belongs to the Bronx museum today (I have that catalogue somewhere in my house, but I can’t find it). In 1972 I showed several geometric paintings at NYU along with Carmen Herrera, Eduardo Ramírez, Arnold Belkin, and Tony Bechara.”

     

    Rodríguez in conversation with Aranda-Alvarado (2015)

  • Selected 1970s and 1980s Exhibitions

  • “It’s been a goal to be able to put content into art. Also, it was a response to the Abstract Expressionists or the New York School and their assertions ‘that what you see is what you get.’ The challenge for me is: behind what you see, there is something else. A good poem—it’s what’s behind that poem. It’s not just the words and the sound—you have to really get into it. And I think that good abstract art can do that too. It’s not easy.” 

     

    Rodríguez with Richard Klin in Something to Say: Thoughts on Art and Politics in America (Leapfrog Press, 2011)

  • At the same time, the Dominican Republic, Caribbean culture, and transnational concerns have continuously inspired the subjects and ethos of his work. Rodríguez’s interest in Caribbean history and the African diaspora lead him to explore the plight of the cimarrón, or fugitive slave. Throughout this series of work, begun in 1985, the artist repeats certain symbols, including the human leg and the fish. By including gallery reviews taken from the New York Times and the MoMA calendar, in El Cimarrón Deja El Monte (1986), Rodríguez gestures towards the exclusion of artists of color from mainstream exhibitions in New York—combining both histories and present occurrences of racial inequity.

     

    Researcher Susan Breyer on Freddy Rodríguez (2019)

  • About the Artist

    Born in 1945 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Rodríguez moved to New York City in 1963 after fleeing Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship (1930-1961), a period marked by severe social and political upheaval. In 1961, Trujillo’s three-decade-long dictatorship ended with his assassination, following several years of political turmoil, and later culminating with the 1965 Civil War. Being drafted into the U.S. army in 1966, Rodríguez resided between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico before settling again permanently in New York City in 1968. Here he proceeded to study painting at the New School for Social Research, and textile design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

    Rodríguez has exhibited in numerous group and individual shows, including The Illusive Eye, El Museo del Barrio, New York City (2016); Caribbean Art at the Crossroads of the World, Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2014); and Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC (2013); among many other. His work can be found in various public collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC; National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC; El Museo del Barrio, New York City; The Newark Museum, New Jersey; Jersey City Museum, New Jersey; Queens Museum of Art, New York City; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York City; and the Museo de Las Casas Reales, Santo Domingo. He is also the subject of a forthcoming monograph by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Acting Chief Curator and Curator of Latinx Art, Dr. E. Carmen Ramos, as part of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History book series published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.