Rodrigo Valenzuela (b. 1982, Chile) received his MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2012, a BA in Philosophy from Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA in 2010 and a BFA from the University of Chile, Santiago in 2004. He has presented solo exhibitions at New Museum, New York (2019); Lancaster Museum of Art and History, CA (2019); Orange County Museum of Art, CA (2018) and Portland Art Museum, OR (2018), and has participated in group exhibitions at the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (2019); The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2017); Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2016); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2015); and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (2017). He was awarded residencies at Light Work, Syracuse, NY (2017); MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH (2016); Core program, Houston, TX (2016); Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE (2015); Kala Art Institute, Berkeley (2015) and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME (2013), among others.
In 2021, Valenzuela was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. He received a Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2017), Arts innovator Award (2014). His work is included in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA; as well as numerous private and corporate collections. Valenzuela lives and works Los Angeles, CA.
“There’s a lot of body in this,” Hunt said. “We’ve all been through something pretty intense together as a global civilization. I’m interested in how that informs people moving through these presentations.” Examples of this include Amia Yokoyama’s sensuous ceramics of contorting, melting figures at Stanley’s and Diné artist Eric-Paul Riege’s hanging works constructed from fabric, faux fur, and hair that visitors can interact with at Stars. At Luis De Jesus, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s tightly composed photographs resemble Constructivist post-apocalyptic landscapes, devoid of people.
Odd machines, both weapon-like and suggestive of mechanical creatures, inhabit artist Rodrigo Valenzuela’s solo art installation called “New Works for a Post-Worker’s World” at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles gallery. Valenzuela’s large photo-based works play with the idea of the elimination of “workforce,” pushed aside by automatons that no longer require human operators. “To me, industrialization and the early labor union movement are a very integral part of the beginning of modernism,” Valenzuela said.
To make the works in this show closing on Saturday, Rodrigo Valenzuela built a stage in his backyard on which he constructed haunting creations in metal. He then photographed his creations in black and white, often pumping in fog as he did so to enhance their eeriness, and printed the images himself. This exhibition presents two bodies of works, “Weapons” and “Afterworks,” in which menacing creations of welded scrap metal appear like futuristic torture devices or strangely alien machines that have outlived their purpose.
For instance, Rodrigo Valenzuela, who is a teacher at UCLA, is making incredible work right now. His practice looks at the working class and issues of labor, immigration and protest. Represented by Luis De Jesus gallery, he’s got a beautiful new book out and has put together a striking presentation for Focus.
Rodrigo Valenzuela. Industry, automation and displacement, along with workers’ struggles for unionization, are longtime interests of Valenzuela, whose photography and cast concrete sculptures will be on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles’ booth. Get familiar with the L.A.-based Chilean artist’s photography first, however, in “New Works for a Post-Worker’s World,” the downtown L.A. gallery’s first solo presentation of his work. Valenzuela is an assistant professor at UCLA, and his black and white images in the current show, the gallery writes, “suggest the roaring steel mills of the past, quickly abandoned once outdated, while also offering a retro futuristic vision in which workers and machines devised a better plan than their mutually assured futility.”
Valenzuela is a Chilean former day laborer in landscape, construction, and more. In the two videos on view, Prole (2015) and El Sísifo (2015), sports provide a backdrop for investigating issues of race, labor, solidarity, and workers’ agency. Both videos accurately paint a picture from a perspective I never thought to consider. One of the videos titled “Prole” featured several immigrant workers engaged in indoor soccer and a discussion of worker unionization.
The American worker is having a moment. Headlines have declared the current power shift from employer to employee as “The Great Resignation” of twenty-four million people, and, for the first time in fifty years, unions in the United States are increasing in popularity, infiltrating some of the largest corporations. Indeed, one of the silver linings of this horrific pandemic has been this empowerment of the worker when automation and downsizing have eroded their perceived value for decades. Perhaps this is why Rodrigo Valenzuela’s first solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, RODRIGO VALENZUELA: New Works for a Post-Workers World, feels so timely and authentic.
Rodrigo Valenzuela's futuristic vision of a mechanical world devoid of humans is so ominous, it makes us shudder - much like the surrealist films of Luis Bunuel. Valenzuela creates poetry from rebellion in eerie factory scenes that are filled with sinister machines and scary automatons – yet there are no humans in sight or glimpses of nature, except the mist which creates a surreal light. We do not know why the humans have gone or why they have turned machines into dangerous weapons. Was there a revolution? These puzzling, dream-like images are left open for the viewer to interpret. They are so visually well-organized that the underlying aggression and paranoia is almost subliminally felt. As Valenzuela told me, they are “memories from the future.”
In their projection of a post-worker’s world, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s Afterwork series and Weapons series speaks to the elimination not only of individual laborers but of the idea itself of the work force, pushed aside by the very shapes we see here: odd machines and automation, engines that no longer require an operator, but that rage when no one is watching.
In Work for a Post Worker’s World, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s grayscale photographs feel like ominous apocalyptic factory scenes — pictures of invented machinery that, devoid of people, imply a future where the robots have taken over. A closer look, however, reveals familiar materials arranged in haphazard but careful compositions.
Highlights include artists looking at labor and industry, such Rodrigo Valenzuela’s new series of performative photographs. These uncanny images invoke early steel production, when workers were treated as engines, while imagining a new relationship between man and machine in a post-worker’s world (showing with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles).
A new exhibition by Chilean artist Rodrigo Valenzuela explores the implications and philosophical consequences of what happens to laborers as technology and automation displace reorganize, and potentially destroy existing work environments. New Works for a Post-Worker’s World is the artist’s first solo exhibition, and it will be on display at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles (DTLA) now through Feb. 19.
And Chilean-born artist Rodrigo Valenzuela explores themes of labor and automation in several series of black and white photographs at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles. His exhibition, “New Work for a Post-Worker’s World,” runs through Feb. 19.
Rodrigo Valenzuela, Ken Gonzales-Day, Michael Kindred Knight at Luis De Jesus. Three concurrent solo exhibitions. Rodrigo Valenzuela’s New Works for a Post-Worker World speaks to the elimination not only of individual laborers but of the idea itself of the workforce. In Another Land, Ken Gonzales-Day presents a new series of drawings started in 2020 as part of a commission project for the Smithsonian’s Journal of the Archives of American Art. Michael Kindred Knight’s newest body of work, Guide Meridian, represents a progression in his approach to abstraction as complex pictorial events that are developed over time.
The fair will include two special sections. The first is Frieze Sculpture Beverly Hills, a new public art program that takes after similar ones in London and New York. That section will be staged in the nearby Beverly Gardens Park, where the works will be on view for three months. The second is Focus LA, which will focus exclusively on presenting one- or two-person presentations from L.A.-based galleries younger than 15 years old. Organized by Amanda Hunt, director of public programs and creative practice at the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the section will feature Luis De Jesus, Charlie James Gallery, Parker Gallery, Garden, and Stars.
My first encounter with Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work was through his video works like Diamond Box (2012–2013), in which the artist paid undocumented migrant workers an hourly rate to tell their stories for the camera. A Chilean-born artist who illegally worked as a day laborer before earning his MFA from the University of Washington, Valenzuela saw his own experiences reflected in the voices of these workers—a familiarity that imbues these works with a sympathetic resonance.
When I first came across the work of Rodrigo Valenzuela, a Chilean artist whose films and photographs often deal with labor themes, the record-high unemployment and an increasing reliance on technology brought on by the pandemic placed the often staggering statistics about the future of work in the front of my mind.
At first glance, the works in Rodrigo Valenzuela’s recent exhibition at Asya Geisberg Gallery look like drawings, but the images are actually built from a complicated series of “translations” from one medium or situation to another. The Chilean-born LA-based artist’s starting point in these images is the ubiquitous polystyrene forms of consumer packaging; these are then cast into concrete components and carefully stacked into composite sculptural forms that are then photographed and translated to photogravure. Defying their immovable appearance, the sculptural forms are specifically constructed without reinforcements or adhesives binding the parts together and exist only for their final output in two-dimensional form, as seen here in these intaglio prints.
Rodrigo Valenzuela’s most recent series, Stature is comprised of eight photogravures that capture the artist’s studio constructions. In rich monochromatic tones, Stature elicits brutalist imagery through forms created from concrete molds of discarded waste. The Chilean-born artist’s work is part of a trilogy exploring modernism and is on view at the Asya Geisberg Gallery through December 19th.
Thick, gray paint peels from the walls of the gallery, revealing shocks of white underneath. A large tower has crashed to the ground (when? it’s unclear), and barricades, painted ghostly white, hide fluorescent lights, throwing shadows across the cracking walls. In this evocative environment, altogether titled Tower, 2018, one doesn’t simply encounter Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work but rather becomes drawn into its political implications.
Rodrigo Valenzuela is obsessed with ruins, or more specifically, with the ghosts of decay and displacement that lurk within urban renewal. A Chilean-born immigrant, Valenzuela spent years working under-the-table construction and janitorial jobs while navigating his way through art school and to permanent residency in the US.