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Patterns and Rhythms: Paintings by Anita Rodriguez

March 16 - May 20, 2007


The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico presents the exhibition Patterns and Rhythms: Paintings by Anita Rodriguez. The exhibition opens March 16 and will be on view through May 20, 2007. It features some thirty paintings by Anita Rodriguez including both new works and a selection of earlier paintings borrowed from local collections that explore a variety of themes. 

Anita Rodriguez is a native Taoseña who now lives and works in Guanajuato, Mexico. In addition to being a renowned painter, she is a writer, activist and expert on adobe construction. Her intensely colorful and complex images draw from a rich mix of cultural and spiritual traditions using skeletons as the protagonists who act out the real, surreal and fantastical scenes she imagines. 

Rodriguez was immersed in art from a young age. Her mother, Grace Graham King, was a Taos artist so her daughter grew up running in and out of the studios of such Taos notables as Victor Higgins, Emil Bisttram and Bert Phillips. Rodriguez later studied at the Taos Art Association with Ward Lockwood and Emil Bisttram. She has noted, however, that despite her close relationships with these artists, it was the Hispanic religious folk art of New Mexico that affected her most deeply. Rodriguez went on to major in art at Colorado College and the University of Denver. In her early twenties she became interested in the traditions of the enjarradoras-the women in the New Mexico villages and pueblos who did the adobe plastering and finishing work. She eventually became a specialist in traditional adobe construction, winning awards particularly for her innovative fireplace designs. Rodriguez also is an outspoken activist who has always been deeply involved in political and social issues and her writings have been published in Arrellano, La Herencia, Women of Power and New Mexico Magazine, among others. (right: Anita Rodriguez, Hora, acrylic on masonite & board, 2006)

In 1989, Rodriguez decided to return to painting, and rapidly found it all-absorbing. Since that time, she has had one-woman shows at New Directions Gallery in Taos in 2001 and at the Roswell Museum of Art and R. B. Ravens Gallery in 2002 among others. She also has participated in numerous group exhibitions including Cinco Pintoras at the University Art Museum in Albuquerque (1996) and the New Art of the West exhibitions at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis in 1996 and 2000 as well as Ofrendas Para Los Muertos: An All Souls' Day Exhibit at Hacienda de los Martinez in 2002.  She has been commissioned to create book covers for Rudolfo Anaya and Jim Segal through the University of New Mexico Press, and to create a series of prints for the Women of the West Museum. Her paintings can be found in the permanent collections of the Albuquerque Museum, the Millicent Rogers Museum of Art, the Harwood Museum of Art and Alholdigas de Granaditas in Guanajuato, Mexico. 

Rodriguez' works explore the zone where cultures mix and often collide -- a zone she came to know well growing up in multicultural Taos as the daughter of an Anglo mother and Hispanic father. Her work draws from personal interests and beliefs as well as themes that have intrigued her throughout her life. They include indigenous Mexican Indian beliefs, shamanism, the Crypto-Judaism of Northern New Mexico, Catholicism and the unique aspects of border life as well as low-rider culture, Tarot cards and gourmet cooking. She is particularly fascinated with secret traditions and hidden identities. Rodriguez states: "My paintings are full of humor, puns and hidden jokes. They are layered with political, mystical, and psychological meaning." By turns intense, humorous, tragic, joyful, fantastical or erotic her works explore the shared experiences and anxieties of the human condition. 

Rodriguez' primary characters are skeletons, a longstanding motif from Mexican art and popular culture. She has said of their appeal: "Skeletons have always been paramount in my workBones stand for my belief in deep democracy-everybody has the same bones, and death comes to us all." For Rodriguez, stripping her figures to their skeletal frames equalizes them and allows her to address issues that reach across ethnic, religious, cultural and other boundaries from a common starting point. They are, for her, symbols of life not death, expressive and vital. Coyotes, wolves, bears, rabbits, stags and masked dancers also make frequent appearances in her paintings carrying both literal and symbolic meanings. 

Vibrant color and lush landscapes are hallmarks too of Rodriguez' works. She has stated: "I just love color. The pleasure that I take in color is physical; it's like eating" and her glowing palette reflects the colors of both Mexican and New Mexican culture. These cultural influences and her lifelong love of Hispanic religious art also are expressed in the forms of her work. Often, the frame is a continuation of the painting and they are carved in forms that echo nichos and retablos

Patterns and Rhythms: Paintings by Anita Rodriguez opens Friday, March 16, 2007 with a public reception from 5-7 pm. The exhibition continues through May 20, 2007. R. B. Ravens Gallery will also be hosting a related show of Anita Rodriguez' work from March 15 through April 30 with an opening reception on March 23 from 5-7 pm at the gallery. 

Also opening concurrently at the Harwood Museum sare Paper, Skin, Air: New Drawings by Gretchen Ewert and Northern New Mexico Carvers, curated by Gustavo Victor Goler. A gallery talk is scheduled during the exhibition.

rev. 3/7/07

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