Using his background as an urban street artist as a starting point, Matthew Rodriguez has expanded his range of media to incorporate collages of found materials, paintings, and staged photographs. Each work straddles the fence between the sweetness of a grade-schooler’s homemade valentine and the diary doodles of the playground bully between shakedowns. The characters populating Rodriguez’s narratives are executed with child-like innocence and reference products that recall the familiarity and security of childhood. The nostalgic sensibilities of the artist, combined with an innate sense of humor, soften the aggressive stances of his “monster-like” creations. His knack for ironically turning the most innocent subjects (e.g., candy corn, rainbows, Christmas trees) into ghoulish creatures renders them more endearing than dangerous. . . . With his “monsters,” Rodriguez succinctly encapsulates urban anxieties yet makes ridiculous viewers’ fears of dark and dangerous downtown alleys. While such alleys, by-ways and vacant lots may be considered non-places (perhaps even sites of potential danger) by some, these overlooked pockets of blighted urban landscape are playgrounds for Rodriguez, who brings them to life through his staged photographs. As critics Rachel Koper and Kristin Unger have observed, Rodriguez is “open to city life as it really is,” or as it is actually lived. He draws out and celebrates the character of overlooked spaces, asking viewers to recognize the potential in the world around them. According to the artist: “my character-land-art puppets are being made to bring attention to the natural environment that’s on its way out if things don’t change . . . [to give] a face to the environment to explain that it’s also a living being.”
Rodriguez has exhibited with Barry Mcgee, Chris Johanson, Travis Millard, Shepard Fairey, Swoon and many others. His street posters can be seen pasted up around New York, Portland, Baghdad, and Austin. This is his first solo show at RARE.