BRIC Announces Fall Gallery Exhibition:
Rodrigo Valenzuela: New Works for a Post Worker’s World
Valenzuela’s first New York institutional exhibition explores industrial and post-industrial concepts of work and the contemporary realities of laborers.
On View: September 22 - December 23, 2022
Opening Reception with the artist: Wed, Sept. 21, 7-9PM. RSVP here.
BRIC, a leading, multi-disciplinary arts and media institution anchored in downtown Brooklyn, is pleased to present Rodrigo Valenzuela: New Works for a Post Worker’s World, Valenzuela’s first institutional exhibition in New York. This mixed-media installation explores industrial and post-industrial concepts of work and the contemporary realities of laborers through two videos, and a new series of sculptures alongside Valenzuela’s photographic series Afterwork and Weapons. New Works for a Post Worker’s World is on view at BRIC House (647 Fulton St.) in the Main Gallery from September 22 to December 23, 2022, with an opening reception on Wednesday, September 21, from 7:00 - 9:00 pm. To attend the opening reception, please RSVP.
Valenzuela stages images for the camera, constructing scenes that function simultaneously as documentation and fiction. These works reflect his ongoing interest in labor, rooted in his working-class roots and his experiences as a construction worker as a new immigrant in the United States. His work recalls the industrial era, when workers were treated as engines, their bodies valued as the capital necessary to forge steel mills and operate steam engines. Valenzuela’s photographs evoke obsolete factories and machines to contemplate the contemporary reality of workers and the current struggles they face -- dispossession due to automation, inability to unionize, or the unsafe working conditions endured by essential workers during the time of the pandemic. New Works for a Post Worker’s World acts as a critique of postcapitalism, social decline, and systems of oppression and authority and presents a world where the worker is removed from labor.
For Afterwork and Weapons, Valenzuela created elaborate tableaux out of urban detritus, much of it found in scrap yards, such as cinder blocks, pipes, wooden palettes, corrugated metal, and two-by-fours which he photographs in a theater box. The Afterwork series resembles remnants of machines or factories in ruin, images that feel familiar yet distant, suggesting spaces of abandonment, alienation, and displacement. The smoke in Valenzuela’s imagery invokes the blazing steam and white heat of steel in the process of formation, but also the perspiration of labor, suspended in air as if evidence of the now-absent worker. The Weapons series presents factory mechanics dismantled and rearranged into homemade weapons which are silkscreened on real time cards, an archaic symbol of labor and control.
Another element of Valenzuela’s exhibition is video. On view will be two videos, Prole, 2015, and The Unwaged, 2017. For Prole, Valenzuela shows a group of real-life blue collar workers gathered in an empty warehouse playing soccer while discussing the pros and cons of unionizing. The video captures a range of emotions such as passion, frustration, and boredom connected with workers contemplating what is in their best interest regarding their labor. In contrast, Unwaged is silent, expressing the connection between personal endurance and surviving the stress of capitalist oppression. The video presents a group of young Latinx people standing in a room staring into the camera. They appear exhausted yet stoic, never dropping their gaze as their bodies quiver and their faces tremble.
Valenzuela will construct an elaborate architectural setting to display his work using two-by-fours, a material used to build houses, to create a physical connection to blue collar aesthetics while symbolically evoking issues arising from his imagery and reflecting the artist’s own labor. In addition to his photographs and prints, Valenzuela will present ceramic sculptures.
With New Works for a Post Worker’s World, viewers are left to posit their own narratives about workers’ relationship to labor. The artist himself suggests that perhaps the workers have all left, some to strike, others to abandon their jobs altogether.
New Works for a Post Worker’s World is curated by BRIC Chief Curator Elizabeth Ferrer. The exhibition will be accompanied by a limited-edition exhibition catalogue with an essay by Elizabeth Ferrer, who is a noted expert in Latinx photography, as well as a live conversation with Rodrigo Valenzuela. Details on the event are forthcoming – check BRIC’s website and social media for updates.
Valenzuela’s exhibition will be on view during the same exhibition cycle as Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross: Earth & Iron: Archival Visions of Land and Struggle curated by BRIC Curatorial Associate Maria McCarthy in BRIC’s Project Room.
Elizabeth Ferrer, BRIC Chief Curator, Contemporary Art, said:
“Rodrigo Valenzuela has crafted a rich, complex visual language to think about some of society’s seemingly intractable social issues – migration, labor, and human worth. He is a deeply innovative artist, continually challenging the boundaries of photography and other artistic media, to create layered, nuanced statements about themes that are both deeply personal and universal. At the same time, this body of work is highly relevant to the contemporary moment, as issues related to work and equity have become prominent in our social discourse.”
Rodrigo Valenzuela said:
“I started this series thinking about the shifts in the job market, the precariat, and the limitations of capitalism. Thinking about possible solutions through creativity and rigorous research, we can present powerful alternatives to the racial and economic hierarchical forces deeply embedded in our society and imagination.”
Rodrigo Valenzuela has presented solo exhibitions at the New Museum and Asya Geisberg Gallery, both NY; Light Work, Syracuse, NY; University of South Florida, Tampa, FL; Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana, CA; Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA; Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles, CA; Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, OR; and the Portland Art Museum and UPFOR, both Portland, OR. He has participated in group exhibitions at The Kitchen, The Drawing Center, Wave Hill, and CUE Art Foundation, all NY; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, FL; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, among others. He has also exhibited his work in solo shows internationally at Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Peana Projects, Monterrey, Mexico; Galería Patricia Ready and Museo de Arte Contemporàneo, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile; and Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer, Vienna, Austria.
Valenzuela has participated in residencies at Dora Maar, Fountainhead, Light Work, MacDowell, Glassell School of Art, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Kala Art Institute, Vermont Studio Center, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He is the recipient of the 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Photography, the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and the Joan Mitchell Fellowship. His work is included in numerous public and private collections, including those of the Whitney Museum of American Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Frye Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and The Center for Photography at Woodstock. He is an Associate Professor and Head of the Photography Department at UCLA. Valenzuela received his BFA in Art History and Photography from the University of Chile, his BA in Philosophy from Evergreen State College, and his MFA in Photo/Media from the University of Washington.
BRIC’s Contemporary Art program benefits from generous private funding from the Auchincloss Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Harold and Colene Brown Family Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, TD Charitable Foundation, and numerous individual supporters. Public support is provided by The New York State Council on the Arts, and The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.
General support for BRIC is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, M&T Charitable Foundation, Scherman Foundation, Tiger Baron Foundation, and individual donors.
Gallery at BRIC House
647 Fulton Street
(Enter on Rockwell Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Image: Rodrigo Valenzuela, "Weapons #30," 2022, 96 x 60 inch, Silkscreen, collage on cardboard and canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Asya Geisberg Gallery.