Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unfadeable at Lawndale

by Dean Liscum

Carlos Rosales-Silva knows what he's doing. He's making art obviously, but in his art he's leveling the culture by asserting that
...an academic essay has the same weight as an exploitation film as the comments on a youtube video...
at least in the way he employs these cultural artifacts in his art. He says so in his artist statement. It's a post-modern tendency that celebrates the non-traditional (which is great) but denies and deprives those subjects and us of the intellectual rigor that both it and we deserve.

Carlos Rosales-Silva, Zig Zag, OSB, hardware, digital prints, dimensions variable, 2011

Warhol did this to pop culture, re-contextualizing parts of pop culture by representing them as high art. Rosales-Silva goes a little farther, shoving high and low culture down the Formalist hall.

Carlos Rosales-Silva, Zig Zag (detail), OSB, hardware, digital prints, dimensions variable, 2011

Carlos brings the color and it's fun and funny. He's one of Formalism's class clowns: smart and sassy. Goofing on Carl Andre among others.

Carlos Rosales-Silva, clockwise from top right: Sunset#3, Spray Paint on Panel, 24x24” 2012; Sunset #4, Spray Paint on Panel, 16x16”, 2012;  Fade Grid, Linoleum Tile and Spray Paint, 3x5’, 2012

But does this practice criticize American culture or just inadvertently further it. America appropriates practices and artifacts from other cultures, strips them of their original social and cultural significance, and then promotes the hollow shell. Take the cocoa leaf, bindis, hemp, henna tattoos, and pop music rooted in the African diaspora.

Small "d" democratization of tricksters like Rosales-Silva comes with its own dangers. It risks becoming so all inclusive, so broad and wide that it encompasses everything, which leaves it with nothing. It risks being taken seriously and silly at the same time so that I can quip "if you're going to say nothing, why not say it with dolphins and rainbows" with some impunity. Coupled with his impressive formalist skills, Rosales-Silva's work can be quite devastating, witty, and economically beneficial (as in the marijuana leaf breast mash-up, which is perfect for a tattoo or t-shirt).

My next alcohol inspired tattoo -- Carlos Rosales-Silva, Good Times Ahead, Acrylic on Paper, 22x30”, 2011
My only concern is that his aesthetic approach may also obliterate what it upholds. Because if his formalist puzzles can be equated to a Lone Star Puzzle Beer Cap (and because art doesn't come with a web decoder), may be I'll just have another beer.


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