Pink has certain connotations: with unabashed girliness, Barbie, Disney princesses and all things sweet and feminine.
Artist Lucha Rodriguez tends to give that sugary hue a more rock ‘n’ roll edge in her unique cut-paper collages “Opposites” on view at the Westside gallery Kai Lin Art.
Rodriguez has carved out her own niche in the Atlanta art scene by working consistently with pink (fun fact: the artist also dresses in pink every day and rides a pink bicycle) and by creating her complex artworks — suggesting some hybrid of drawing and sculpture — out of cut paper assembled into captivating, intricate designs.
The Venezuelan-born Rodriguez has described how informative her childhood growing up as the daughter of a surgeon was on her artwork. Rodriguez’s elaborate cut-paper constructions often recall the inner workings of the body: intestines, organs, lung tissue or loop-de-loops of veins and arteries, forms inspired by the books of medical illustrations that fascinated her as a child.
For this nicely concise show with a more reined-in, serious tone than her previous free-form and whimsical work, Rodriguez works in a neon shade of pink with the comparable intensity of a fluorescent orange traffic cone. Her color palette is purposefully pared back, consisting of just that flaming ’80s-fashion shade of her signature pink, an asphalt black and pure white.
Out of those three shades Rodriguez creates her own visual language with very different effects. The artist’s ambition, she says in an accompanying statement, is to show how dramatically perception can change when those color combinations are manipulated.
In “Opposites,” Rodriguez works a common motif, altering foreground and background color. In the foreground are one of Rodriguez’s intricate cut-paper forms, a kind of lacy spaghetti of intersecting strips of paper formed into a loose ball. Those cut-paper creations can suggest a massed clump of energy, which Rodriguez places against her contrasting paper backgrounds: pink against white, white against pink, black against pink, pink against black and so on.
Sometimes she divides her background into two yin and yang spheres of hot pink and white, with a cut-paper clot of those same two colors floating on the surface. At other times, her cluster of cut paper weaves tendrils of black and white cut paper against a backdrop of pink, black and white wallpaper-style stripes.
Those endless manipulations of foreground and background color, and pattern are part of the formal experiment that defines “Opposites.” True to Rodriguez’s objective, to alter our perception by changing up pattern and color, different effects are created through different combinations. Placing one of those clumps of white paper tendrils against a white background creates a soothing, quiet mood. By contrast, a black cut-paper mass placed against a white background jumps from the paper’s surface, alive and slightly malevolent, the cut paper edges suddenly reminiscent of barbed wire.
“Opposites” is the kind of formal exercise eggheady artists love: take a concept that feels limited in its scope — three colors, multiple ways — and show its perception-expanding potential. While Rodriguez doesn’t necessarily blow our minds with her fugue on pink, black, white and cut paper, she certainly offers an entertaining tour of how artists can alter how we see the world.
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