In “The Map Is Not the Territory,” Filipino-American artist Lordy Rodriguez presents three bodies of new work, comprised of more than 400 drawings. This, his fourth exhibition with Hosfelt Gallery and his first one-person show in Hosfelt Gallery’s New York space, is the most ambitious exhibition of his career.
For the past 15 years, the vocabulary of cartography has been the bedrock of Rodriguez’s ink drawings. Within the hundreds of 10×14-inch drawings in this exhibition, Rodriguez lays out a visual lexicon of the map-based forms that have defined his work. Though without text, topographical notations are recognizable through familiar lines and gradations of color. Mountains, fissures, lakes, rivers, and islands are identifiable. But this is topography on acid. Colors are fluorescent or counterintuitive; shapes reminiscent of landscape morph into abstract patterns. References to microbiology, animation, Op Art, and textiles abound.
Six large-scale drawings in the exhibition expound the image vocabulary of the small drawings into a 6×8-foot scale and push the iconography to an even higher degree of irrationality. These works also omit text – an element that is crucial to cartography. Without text, the “maps” lose their utility, and that gap is filled by the viewer’s experience and bias.
In five large maps of the United States, Rodriguez moves further into metaphoric terrain. He reconfigures boundaries and uses text to explore social and political classification.
“The map is not the territory,” a quote from Alfred Korzybski, speaks to the limits of language and symbol. A map is not the land. A map is not the people. A map, as illustrated by the three permutations exhibited in this show, speaks to the interchangeability of symbol, the interchangeability of meaning and the abstract nature of language, be it written or visual.
Lordy Rodriguez received a B.F.A. from School of Visual Arts in New York, and an MFA from Stanford University in 2008. In 2009 his work was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Austin Museum of Art in Texas and the Nevada Art Museum.