Rodrigo Valenzuela in The Stranger 4.14.16
Rodrigo Valenzuela Goes Looking for American Heroes But Doesn’t Find Any
by: Jen Graves
Someone asked me the other day where Rodrigo Valenzuela has gone. He is still based partly in Seattle, so he appears here and there like a figment, but he’s mostly been in Houston, where this spring he finishes his time as a CORE Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Right now he’s got a solo exhibition at David Shelton Gallery in Houston based on his disappointment in American monuments and markers of the dead. Our monuments, the Chilean-born artist has noticed, are mostly to the politically or militarily powerful, or as he’s been seeing in Texas, the Confederacy. Our roadside altars commemorate fatal accidents.
Both in Latin America and in the United States, I see too many monuments for the wrong people. The monuments make we wonder why and how we honor people in the public sphere, and the aesthetic decisions we take to keep someone in the public consciousness.
In this project I confront the lack of heroic figures in contemporary culture, the idealization of fame and fortune by neoliberal society, and the tendency to memorialize big disasters, war and the famous, while leaving very little room to honor the casualties of these disasters and the sacrifice of the unknown person in our everyday life.
The monument he’s erected in the Houston gallery leaves off human figures or abstractions—or even verticality—in favor of geometric designs that look both ancient and Soviet. It has an altar aspect, like the impromptu monuments and altars he encountered more frequently in Latin America.
The exhibition is called Sin Heroes, or Heroless.