Rodrigo Valenzuela: Garabatos
August 24th to October 7th, 2023
Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR
Garabatos, a new series of black and white photographs by Rodrigo Valenzuela (b. 1982, Santiago de Chile), is inspired by the artist’s investigation of Latin America’s music scene and its attendant subcultures in the authoritarian aftermath of Operation Condor, the CIA-lead initiative that neutralized socialist agendas in South America by creating a web of cooperation among the continent’s military regimes. Using archival images, magazines and films, the artist isolates bodies and movements from certain documentary images to create a vocabulary of gestures that later become “sculptures to be photographed.”
The title Garabatos means “scrawl” in Spanish. However, colloquially, a garabato is also an insult screamed on the streets or stadia of Chile. As an artist, Valenzuela is interested in abstract gestures that are part of the collective lexicon—desperate, sometimes inchoate attempts to communicate desire or class codes. Insults belong to subcultures and are everywhere an intricate part of national identity; additionally, an insult combines popular culture, class and geography, making it rich and particular. Valenzuela seeks to analyze the guttural social responses to unfairness and anger, zeroing in a specific period of cultural production in the 1970s and ‘80s in Latin American nations like Argentina, Chile, Peru—a period in which these and other Southern Cone countries experienced similar abuses stemming from American imperialism.
Valenzuela’s photographs evoke something between a museum and a performing stage. According to the artist: “The idea is to subvert the ideology attached to the gallery or museum as a place of canonized beauty and information, and replace it with a more egalitarian and sensitive space for the dissemination of popular knowledge and bodily wisdom.”