Myth and Magic in the Artist’s Studio with José Luis Rodríguez Guerra

I recently visited the artist, painter, and sculptor José Luis Rodríguez Guerra in his studio to have a discussion and private viewing of his art. Our conversation went in many directions. Here is a crude selection of excerpts from our conversation and a glimpse at some of his art. I should say that the recorded words here and the simulacra of his paintings do not do justice to the depth of his expression.

ABF: What is your work about?

JLRG: Someone said my work accentuates myth, magic, and memory. But they were just a scholar. My work is an expression of the human condition.

ABF: What are you trying to do with your work?

JLRG: I try to make the world smaller.  I work where the chaotic pool of miracles happens and I deliver them. You have to fight norms.

Guerra’s studio is breathtaking. Most of his paintings are massive, life size. They do not have frames and jut out from the wall several inches or so such that each piece seems like a heavy stone tablet. The studio is darkly lit except for the pieces themselves which are lit immaculately; some of his work uses color changing lights to accentuate various layers of the art. A reoccurring technique in the pieces are little circular speckles in brown, red, or ochre. This color scheme is everywhere. Mythological items and symbols prevail: crows, snakes, eagles, deserts, sickles, or fire. My favorite piece by Guerra is his masterpiece Age of Signs (seen below, mixed media on prepared masonite 32″ x 48″). It is an image of a farm worker in a sparse field, but the workers tools are gone.  He is nude. The landscape is stark. An anvil cloud in the distance is illuminated in pink and red from the setting or rising sun. The man throws red in a panicked arc onto square lines drawn in the field.

Age of by Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

The artist Jose Guerra

ABF: What is creating art like?
JLRG: It is a life… a sacrifice. Maybe I can’t paint anymore. My body, my mind, the pieces I have completed now represent me. But I’m not hungry anymore.When you are as serious as I you have to be a magician. Or a shaman. Because what your doing has an effect. We are not blind. I have been painting for a lot of years. I’m 60.
ABF: What are you painting or expressing?
JLRG: I paint the human condition. The politics, I know what is going on. War, problems. It is about oil. Energy. The Middle East. The bomb in Iran. Syria. In general it has been happening for the last 20 years. I’m just grasping in this area. Al Queda cutting heads. It all deals with what’s going on. War and immigration is also a part of it. I have something to say. About the human condition.
ABF: What is your story?
JLRG: [Guerra was born in Coahuila, Mexico]. I really started with abstract expressionism at Boise State University. I got tired of it though. I wanted more. Frustration destroys artists, academia doesn’t deliver artists. I moved to Mexico city in 1978. My influences were Carravagio, Velasquez, Diego Rivera, Goya, these were movements of classical works in its best. These artists stand out to me.
ABF: Your art is of warriors or shamans in some intense landscape that looks like a dream. Are you painting your dreams or myths you see.
JLRG: But I’m not a myth maker. I’m an observer. We paint what is in the moment. I’m a victim as much as anyone. The difference is I can observe it.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Study of Shell Woman by Jose Luis Rodriguez Guerra

Study of farm worker #5 by Jose Luis Rodriguez GuerraI was delighted how he said he was an observer. Guerra is an artist who captures the sadness of the human condition, yet he also gives us poetic cures for healing. We all feel what is in the moment, but Guerra offers the unique talent of uncommon observation to us, “the difference is I can observe it.”  You can find out more about Guerra’s art and contact him at his website here. Guerra’s art studio and gallery is generally open to the public on the 1st Thursday of each month for Seattle art walk from 7:00-11:00PM located at 80 South Washington St. Suite 204 Seattle, WA 98104. Please do not use any of the images from this post without attribution to myself for the pictures and attribution to Guerra for the artwork; be sensitive to the unique nature and provenance of these works.

There are 1 Comments to "Myth and Magic in the Artist’s Studio with José Luis Rodríguez Guerra"

  • Margi says:

    Definitely can feel the Goya influence. Very powerful paintings from an artist whose work I have not seen before. Thanks for widening the circle!

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