Light Work announces the reopening of its state-of-the-art photography lab and exhibition spaces to the public. Over the last three months, Light Work staff have taken incremental steps toward pre-pandemic “normal.” At Light Work, there has been a progression from…
Light Work Presents ‘Rodrigo Valenzuela: American Type’
Light Work presents “Rodrigo Valenzuela: American Type,” a solo exhibition on view in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery through March 1. The opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 31, from 5-7 p.m., features a gallery talk with Rodrigo Valenzuela at 6 p.m. Signed copies of “American Type” exhibition catalog, Contact Sheet 200 will be available to collectors after the talk.
Light Work is located in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center, 316 Waverly Avenue. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work boldly addresses themes of labor, power and representation. For a Chilean artist living in America at a moment in which the president of the United States continues pressing for a border wall, the underlying narrative of Valenzuela’s work—of immigration and the struggles of the working class—is as charged as ever.
The title of the exhibition, “American Type,” refers to a 1955 essay in which art critic Clement Greenberg frames the work of abstract expressionist painters such as Pollock, Kline, Motherwell, and Rothko as distinctly American. Greenberg proposed that post-war American painting was more about the act of painting itself than about any complex idea of representation. Valenzuela finds it interesting to challenge this concept and, as he puts it, to contemplate “how much the absence of content has become the American gold.” He doesn’t argue that abstraction is necessarily without subject or emotion, but Valenzuela questions Greenberg and art world elitism more generally by making his own subversive abstractions that he imbues with social-political meaning.
Valenzuela’s approach to representation in his work draws our attention to the extensive labor of his artistic process. Every aspect of his work shows a trace of his own labor, from the building of studio assemblages, to the photographic steps that lead to the final prints. Even the wooden frames that hold the work have been cut, assembled, and painted by his hand. Labor is inherent in the making of all art, but for Valenzuela it becomes a compelling central subject.
Valenzuela lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He studied art history and photography at the University of Chile (2004), holds a B.A. in philosophy from The Evergreen State College (2010), and an M.F.A. from the University of Washington (2012). Recent residencies include Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, Nebraska), Center for Photography (Woodstock, New York), Core Fellowship at the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX), Light Work (Syracuse), MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, New Hampshire), and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Recent solo exhibitions include Future Ruins at Frye Art Museum (Seattle, Washington), Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer (Vienna, Austria, 2018), Work in Its Place at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Eugene, Oregon, 2018), New Land at McColl Center (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2017), American-Type at Orange County Museum (Santa Ana, California, 2018), Labor Standardsat Portland Art Museum (Portland, Oregon, 2018), and Prole at Ulrich Museum of Art (Wichita, Kansas, 2016). Valenzuela is an assistant professor in the Department of Art, University of California at Los Angeles, and recipient of the 2017 Joan Mitchell Award for Painters and Sculptors. He participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in August 2017.