Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada is a Cuban-born artist who grew up in New Jersey. In college, he bacame active in the street art scene and helped found artist collectives whose focus lay in attacking billboards and utilizing guerrilla tactics to make their anti-corporate messages and frustrations known. His Identity series is composed of gigantic charcoal portraits of anonymous people scaling the walls of buildings in different cities around the world. These drawings question the controls imposed on public space, the role models that represent us and the type of events that are guarded by the collective memory.
"During the nineties in New York City I was one of the founders of the Culture Jamming movement. We worked on the streets modifying billboard campaigns and tweaking the semiotics of brand logos to create satirical social commentaries and challenged public perception of cultural icons. These were socially motivated works of art that questioned issues I experienced growing up: disproportionate advertising in minority areas and state decisions that had lost all ethical consciousness.
In 2002 I moved to Barcelona where I began my ‘Identity Series’. I was drawn to the beauty of old surfaces and I wanted to blend photo realistic images of anonymous locals to question the controls imposed in public space, and the use and abuse of iconic faces to sell us products and ideas. I decided to apply the same approaches used by advertising, such as strategic positioning and size, but with the intention of creating a poetic counter commentary that fades away with beauty. The Identity Series is about initiating a dialogue with a local community through art. These portraits transformed local, anonymous residents into social icons, giving relevance to an individual’s contribution to the community and touching upon the legacy that each life has to offer.
I chose charcoal for its transparency and ephemeral quality. I involve the visual narrative of the textured wall instead of covering it. These time-based portraits gradually deteriorate. They become a metaphor of the fading of life, of fame and of the things we first thought were so important. The creation of the “Identity Series” is also an act that is environmentally sound and at the mercy of the natural world. The pieces fade away like the warmth after an embrace. The photo realistic drawing is only an aspect of the piece. The importance of the piece is the whole process of creation, destruction and memory.
The driving force of the aesthetic to my gallery work are the weathered textures that I use as a metaphor for the passage of time. The Urban Analogies Series are charcoal gazes blended with 150+ year old urban surfaces that I transfer onto wood panels. The Terrestrial Series are huge mandalas that are created with a careful selection of materials. They are primal screams asking for reflexion. I enjoy to continually explore new materials. I am now working on a sculptural series with the same conceptual direction.'