Independent Art Critic, January 2017

Beyond the Oedipal Complex to Umbilical Discord
Reflections Upon Life with My Mother and Muse

An attempt to pigeonhole the art of George Rodez is an abject exercise in intellectual bankruptcy.

Unlike an artist who toils slavishly to achieve a singular style, Rodez is a rare talent whose forte lies in the diverse imagery he creates.

Now 59, and still at work on the multiple series for which he has become known, Rodez challenges viewers with his hallucinatory figures, arresting symbolism and snippets of text that wheel between genres and attention commanding styles.

Encountering the Cuban-American’s work for the first time what springs to mind is the illusion one is experiencing a group show resulting from many different hands.

Rather instead what the viewer is seeing is the uninhibited reach of an inherently self-aware and insatiably curious mind. This painter is an explorer par excellence of subconscious realms.

It’s a gift born from a complex, multi-layered relationship with his mother that has taken Rodez a lifetime to hone.

“For as far back as I can remember, my mother always suffered and struggled with mental illness,” recollects Rodez who likens growing up under these circumstances to the hyper surreal or being swallowed by “Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole”.

The dynamics of their relationship left an indelible impression on Rodez marking his approach to creating art.

Throughout her lifetime Caridad Rodriguez wrestled with acute schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple or split personalities.

As a teenager she actively engaged in ballet and fencing. Ironically, both skills would foreshadow a pattern for pirouetting into disparate roles while skirmishing to parry off the demons tormenting her.

For the profoundly observant Rodez, his mother’s efforts to cope with her incapacitating condition would also provide the template to explore our existential condition.

“I wanted to take all these different shifts in her psyche and use the energy I observed in her characters to interpret and incorporate them into each individual style of art I currently work with,” informs Rodez who admits engaging in his own version of an identity shuffle during the creative process.

“I won’t deny that she left a definite mark in my life, but I have made a conscious decision to taking the negative and turning it into a positive in a metaphorical way even though I do have issues that I struggle with on a daily basis as a human being,” Rodez observes.
Although Rodez asserts that he fully enjoys his Afro-Caribbean Series which explores his roots or the Elements and Values suite trough which he contrasts notions of order and chaos, it his work interpreting dreams that delivers a blow to the solar plexus.

The resulting imagery of his Dream canvasses can be described as surrealistic, Jungian or even Bunuelian.

At once exuberant and Felliniesque in their lurid nature they depict grim and somber scenes reflecting a veritable catalogue of our worst fears, flailing emotions and wildest obsessions.

Despite an underlying sense of whimsy and innocence that seeps through his compositions, the notion of the adolescent artist attempting to heal himself by curing his mother is almost palpable and heart-piercing.

“I sometimes feel that our minds aren’t yet ready to handle some our own personal truths so it attempts to send us a camouflaged message through our dreams to help us accept what is being presented before us as an internal movie which can later help us solve the puzzles,” reflects Rodez.

Stage-like and almost theatrical in appearance the rooms and hallways Rodez depicts evoke the fun-house mirrors of the mind with walls leaning everywhere at crazy angles for no apparent reason.

Some paintings reveal menacing hopscotch games in abandoned fields while others feature a judge’s gavel, a floating syringe, disembodied heads or an empty grave.

Rodez also employs text with labyrinthine intricacy to trigger associations, thoughts, and memories within the viewer he says.

“I have a tendency to take phrases, sentences, quotes, or even personal observations and put excerpts or certain words from them into some of my paintings,” mentions Rodez.

“While some of these may be self-referential, I also draw from movies, books, songs, church hymns, quotes, or anything that strikes a definite chord in my subconscious mind since I am very aware of its existence,” the artist adds.

“I consider dreams to be a gift. A gift that helps us understand our minds,” concludes Rodez.

Art Historian, Florida International University, August 2005

“Dreams or Nightmares?”

Despite what appears to be a narrative taking place in the paintings by George Rodez , any attempt to understand or “read” the story results in confusion. Perhaps this is just as well. Without completely understanding the source of his imagery, the viewer is allowed to interpret and identify the characters and their actions within the realm of his/her imagination and experience. The figures become everyman and everywoman and their daily travails, as odd as they may seem, become universal. Rodez conceives of the art of painting as a means of juxtaposing the recollections of dreams with the process of creativity. Just as the Surrealists did many years ago, he sets out to liberate the workings of the subconscious, disrupting conscious thought processes by the use of his own irrational imagery, and painting another reality. It was an exercise conceived of by Andre Breton, the self-appointed leader of the official Surrealist movement in 1920s Paris, whose writers and artists were trained and encouraged to harness their dream world into a surrealité of words and images. Rodez employs a similar, albeit more contemporary, method to provide an image for a state of mind out of which he could produce his work and his new reality. This reality is personal, but so provocative and strange that the viewer cannot help but get involved with the plight of the protagonists and share their lurid space.

The world that he creates is as absurd as the people who perform in its claustrophobic and multi-dimensional dramas. Imagine a scene with hallways and rooms that disappear in angles of infinity and the perspective of every object interferes with the appearance of normalcy, and that people actually exist (or perform) within these walls. The sense of chaos defies gravity and can be as disturbing as a nightmare or as humorous as a fun-house. It all depends on your point of reference, and that of the artist who is so boldly sharing something of his inner musings, but does not reveal just what that something is, or what it means. The viewer is free to interpret them as dreams or nightmares or just the bizarre results of the creativity of the artist. Although the methods for the interpretation of the dream world may be seen as a continuation of the now almost century old explorations of the Surrealists, undoubtedly new concepts about the production of art, expression of the subconscious, and far more advanced psychological analyses, inform the work of George Rodez as an artist of today who is capable of describing his own “realm of the marvelous”, as the Surrealists described their new world and their efforts at communication with the conscious by means of the unconscious.

Rodez has invented his own vocabulary of symbols, or uses rather recognizable symbols for his own personal methods of communication via his own artistic language. One is reminded of the work of Max Ernst, one of the most successful at interpreting the theory of the Surrealist image as a “pure creation of the spirit”, in the words of poet Paul Reverdy. Ernst was an artist of the unexpected and his works the appropriation from an intense imagination and repertoire of symbols. For Rodez, the symbols become the objectivation of the activity of dreaming and provide a course or transition into reality through painting. He refers to or reduplicates the condition of dreaming in images that reveal the unexpected coincidence of time and place that is part of such irrational conditions. However, in all his paintings, with all their angles of fear and danger and risk depicted in cool, dark colors, the artist wants the viewer to find a message of optimism, not tragedy. Dreams are his passage to hope.

Writer, Poet, and Artist – Dream Symptoms, August 2005

Room With a View or the Reality of the Dream

We embark on a journey to never never land, where Captain Hook is synonymous to Father Time, where the winding yellow brick roads are substituted by the ongoing hallways and doors that lead us into voids of silence and such terrible truths.

Suspended in time by the artist’s paintbrush and imagination, we cross over to a new reality, unknown and unimagined by most, but very real and palpable to the recollections of the roads already traveled by my friend and colleague George Rodez.

His paintings are windows that open onto the fragmentations of the episodes that took place during his childhood and carried over into adulthood. Trapped in this labyrinth of the unknown he draws our attention very carefully, almost hypnotically, until you are captured by the universal feeling of being lost, alone and in despair. Searching for answers and guaranteed none, he gently forces us to taste a bite out of his universe and the unwanted bad medicine so cruelly forced down his throat.

Before you criticize, analyze or speculate over his body of work, you must first be able to dissect the terrified child from the artist who challenges you to view his reality from a different perspective; ours is only a small glimpse into his private hell with the warranty of being able to walk away from his surreal landscape unharmed by his reality and converting it into an all too severely real nightmare. Before we can begin to believe ourselves capable of discussing his work, one must first examine in great detail the provenance of the work, the where’s, the why’s and because.

George Rodez is self-taught. A true artist is born, not made! Born out of chaos, hope, despair, loneliness, injustice, abuse, negligence, sadness, madness, and love. Art is the true mother of man and woman, for it is she who picks up when we fall. It is she who comforts us in silence. She is the one who knows and guides us away from the clutches of insanity. Art is our discipline and disciple. Art is the key that unlocks the door to imagination, to worlds unheard of. Art is hope! Art is the vehicle that allows Rodez to escape from the perilous landscapes of reality. Dreams, Nightmare, or all the above, Rodez Art is a silent scream, a plea for mercy, justice, and understanding.

Philosopher, Curator, and Artist – Dream Symptoms, August 2005

(…) Rodez paints putting art again under the light of unconsciousness, dissolving critical intelligence and appealing to dreamlike, subliminal resources or metabolic processes of internal realism. Openly symbolist, metaphorical and / or merely descriptive manifestation, almost surrealist, literary. The brush does not see everything, but neither does the eye. To look is to re-create, to make possible the miracle of the world; to recover it by losing again (…)