artist: PR Rodríguez
There’s a photo album in my house. The photographs are very old, and I don’t recognize the faces of most of the people who are portrayed on them. They are most likely dead or about to die. There is one photograph in particular that catches my attention: one of a chubby baby who's sitting on a huge stone with the word GLADIOLAS engraved on it, there is a lady behind the baby, and behind the lady, nothing.
The photograph catches my eye because I’ve always lived in Gladiolas Street, but, apart from the engraving, there is nothing else I recognize.
My grandmother told me that when she arrived in town there were only two houses; that of her comadre Carmela and that of Mrs. Lucrecia. The third house was the one my grandmother built, there were only pig farms and vacant lots around.
The first time I saw those photos I was still a child. I asked my mother where they had taken that photo, she quickly took it and said “Don’t you see? It’s out here.”
The first time I saw that photo, I was shocked. For that little girl, “out here” was a perfectly paved street, a couple of sidewalks, and at least a hundred houses.
A thousand cars drive-by “out here” every day because this is the “main street”. Opposite of, there are three housing units in which thousands of people reside, two elementary schools, a kindergarten, and a couple of private schools. If you walk a couple of streets you will find the main market, and if you walk a little more you will find “Plaza JDN”, where almost the entire town meets every fortnight to collect their salaries since there is at least one branch of the most important banks in Mexico there. Also, we can see clothing and shoe stores, fast food restaurants, snacks, and even a small movie theater.
The place where my family arrived more than fifty years ago is nothing like the place where I live now. It makes me think of the photographs I have seen of Ciudad Satélite. The city’s design included an artistic and architectural project from Mathias Goeritz, Luis Barragán, an architect, and Chucho Reyes Ferreira, a painter.
I am not an expert in art history or Mexico City’s history and its surrounding area, but I recently read that one of the intentions of the men who designed these famous towers was to cause vertigo.
Vertigo arises when a structure is placed in a space where nothing else existed before, when seeing something large in the middle of nowhere.
That same image came to mind when I contemplated PR Rodríguez’s work (@prodríguez_et_al), the warm tones of her works make you feel the heat of the sun getting each one of the structures, the dust that flies up into your nose, and a drop of sweat that runs down your right cheek.
The small figures that accompany the monstrous main structures remind me of the dizzying intention of those artists who designed the city.
There are always things that make us feel infinitely small, emptiness is one of them; the city is probably another.
PR’s paintings remind me of the town my grandmother comes from, the documentaries about the construction of the pyramids of Giza, the subway, la Latino, or Fifth Avenue in New York, and the films in which they filter Mexico with sepia colors.
Las ciudades, si lo pensamos, se encuentran en medio de la nada o, mejor dicho, en algún momento fueron un punto específico en medio de la nada. La construcción nos ayuda a distinguir eso: el aquí y el allá se nos muestran cuando colocamos un objeto que lo delimita.
The sensation of vertigo that is felt when contemplating something colossal in front of us ends when we have become used to the colossal.
In the city, there are thousands of buildings, several of them taller than the iconic Satellite Towers, most of the people who walk among them do not stop to observe the distance between the ground, which belongs to us, and the highest of them (to which only a few can access).
The Satellite Towers are not so intimidating next to the second floor of periférico and the huge and unnecessary Plaza Satélite. My town, in its small enormity, is still on that engraved GLADIOLAS stone. PR’s paintings preserve that feeling and the principle of the city in them, vertigo and the construction: the foundations.