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Rodrigo Valenzuela: Prole

July 17 – September 12, 2015

CUAC is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Rodrigo Valenzuela, an emerging artist from Chile now based in Seattle and Houston.

Raised in a working-class family and having entered the United States as a laborer himself, Rodrigo Valenzuela explores socio-cultural tensions with regards to class, race, and labor. In Prole, the iconography of historical labor unions becomes the departure point for a new body of work that comments on the dying spirit of the union force in today’s society—unions, as Valenzuela argues, are treated now more as insurance companies than the community builders or empowerment networks they once were. Valenzuela’s painted flags combine, flip, and alter these union logos and remove their text, turning them into empty symbols—somehow possessing a familiar strength, but yet detached from their original meaning. Stark photographs similarly present these emptied logos, as well as stage sets that evoke factories now devoid of both work and workers.

Prole also includes Maria TV and Diamond Box, Valenzuela’s recent films that blur oral history and fictional narrative in his exploration of the Latino immigrant experience. In Diamond Box, he asked day laborers to share their stories of crossing the border. He weaved these stories into one narrative, which is then divorced from any one person—their voices accompany the experience of watching these men captured in moments of silence. Maria TV is the all-female counterpart to this. Featuring Spanish-speaking immigrants now working as maids, the artist combines their monologues with a melodramatic telenovela scene, highlighting the distorted media representations of the working-class as well as how these women fit into a class of forgotten, often invisible laborers.

Rodrigo Valenzuela received his BFA from the University of Chile in 2004, and his MFA from the University of Washington in 2012. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and Vermont Studio Center, and is currently at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and a Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His exhibitions include solo exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, and the Contemporary Art Museum in Santiago, Chile, as well as numerous galleries nationally. In 2013, Valenzuela received the Genius award in Visual Art, an annual award by Seattle’s newspaper The Stranger. He was also selected as one of Smack Melon’s Hot Picks in 2014, and has received the Artist Trust Innovators Award, among others.