Creative of the Month- June
Angel Rodriguez-Diaz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1955. After earning his B.A in art at the University of Puerto Rico, he moved to New York City to pursue his Master’s in Art. After a year at New York University’s graduate program he decided to move on to the Hunter College Art Department, where he studied under Robert Morris, Ron Gorchov and Roselyn Krauss, among others.
When did you come to San Antonio?
In 1994 I met my partner Rolando Briseño in NYC. By his invitation I briefly visited San Antonio and I really liked its cultural exuberance. Sometime later, Rolando decided that it was time for him to return home to San Antonio. I stayed in NYC for a year after receiving a residency at the Marie Walsh Sharp Art Foundation. Shortly after that, I was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Mid-Atlantic Grant and a travel grant to study the indigenous cultures of Mexico. That's when I made a stop in S.A. for a month and then took off to witness and study the celebrations of the Day of the Dead in the State of Morelos, Mexico, where I stayed for almost a year. When I returned to the U.S. in 1995, by then I had decided that San Antonio was going to be my new home...and here I am!!!
How did you get started in the local arts community?
I was invited to participate in a show at Centro Cultural Aztlan back when it was located at Las Palmas shopping center.
What has been your greatest challenge as an artist?
To develop a visual language that could accurately communicate my personal observations about my experiences.
In my work I have pursued the social and political boundaries of portraiture by further exploring issues of representation. Portraiture has allowed me the opportunity to explore thoughts of identity, power, passion and the everyday masks we all wear. As a result, a traditional artistic mode of representation is juxtaposed to some aspects of our contemporary lives in order to depict, re-imagine, and to celebrate our social and cultural diversity. This pictorial space, articulated as a construction of a gaze, shatters the preconceive notion of portraiture as an outdated mode of visual expression. These individual representations hold the spectators in their gaze like a mirror that reflects upon the fragility of our own evolving identities.
Tell us about your upcoming public art project at Blanco and Basse.
“Crossroads of Enlightenment” is a design featuring two smokestack-styled luminaria sculptures, stonework benches, and three varieties of indigenous vegetation growing out of a metaphor for the area’s history. The design emerges from the local histories and neighboring communities. I began with this area’s history as a stone quarry. Today, Alamo Quarry’s smokestacks stand in recognition of the long history of industriousness of such people and the hard work of San Antonians. However, this history remains disconnected from contemporary neighborhoods around the Blanco and Basse intersections or the communities’ self-understandings. As such, I draw out this history to illustrate the area’s vibrant and dynamic past while also integrating symbols into the architectural design to identify the resiliency of the neighborhoods’ predecessors. The lamps therefore replicate the style of the smokestacks but include decorative plates that continue the metaphor of the Los Angeles Heights and Cementville neighborhood histories. The surrounding vegetation is designed to allow year-round greenery while also providing seasonal blooms from the two different varieties of trees. The Retama (Palo Verde) blooms yellow flowers in the summer and the Mountain Laurel blooms purple/blue in spring.
What do you hope for the future of the arts in San Antonio?
We have lot of talent here... the City has paid attention to the important role that art plays in our quality of life. Now what we need is to encourage more commerce of art so we can retain the mass of creatives that will take San Antonio to the next level.
Angel Rodriguez-Diaz and Rolando Briseño are just a of couple of the local artists that will be featured during the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention taking place June 8-10. Their studios will be part of the ARTventure tour, “Creative Neighborhoods: Spaces and Places” which will also include stops at Clamp Light Studios, Hausmann Millworks, Bihl Haus Arts, and Centro Cultural Aztlan.]
More about the artist:
Rodriguez-Diaz’s work was featured in the national exhibition “Retratos: 2000 Years of Latin American Portraits,” which was organized by the San Antonio Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, and El Museo del Barrio in New York. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, the Museo del Barrio, the Museo De Arte Contemporaneo De Puerto Rico, the Instituto De Cultura Puertorriqueña, the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Fernando Cathedral, Institute for Latino Studies-Notre Dame, the Art Museum of South Texas, Mexic-Arte Museum, and the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, among others.