Viewing the Emergent City and Its People

Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Interview via Fecal Face Dot Com

Is this OUTSIZE or what???? from FECAL FACE DOT COM

For those of you who claim size doesn’t matter, you obviously have never met or seen the art of our latest Fecal Face feature,Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. He steadily gained momentum over the years both in the scale of his work and clarity of his craft. Originally from Cuba he relocated to the United States as a toddler. After a no doubtingly interesting and fascinating childhood he began taking his art causes to the streets.

It was in the early 90’s with the art crew Artfux and Ron English, when he began crushing the streets, modifying street signs, developing “slap in the face” billboard campaigns, and using his art as a tool for the social consciousness and awareness. Since his pioneering days Jorge Rodriguez Gerada has expanded his artistic horizons, his geography and his ability to go big with incredibly photo realistic illustration on walls, streets and whatever medium he can get his hands on around the world.

In the words of a true poet Gerada says; “Charcoal fades away and becomes a memory, like the warmth after an embrace”. With that in mind, Fecal Face is proud to bring you the boundless art and ideals of Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. – Manuel Bello

“Rebel without a lung” Altered NYC billboard 1994

Tell us a little bit about your personal and artistic background.

I come from a Cuban exile family that moved to the States when I was three years old. I grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey and moved into Manhattan when I was 19. I became one of the founders of the New York City culture jamming movement with the group Artfux. We were altering a lot of billboards and did a good amount of guerrilla art actions. By 1997 I stopped working with collectives and started to experiment more with urban semiotics by altering street signs as well. In May of that year I was interviewed by Naomi Klein for a Village Voice article that was later included in her book “No Logo”. Unlike my previous direction, I was purposely avoiding names and logos that have been engraved in society through advertising. I became disillusioned with the culture jamming movement because some of the major players involved at the time began using it as a stylistic device for personal media attention. It became apparent that it was just part of their marketing plan to sell a clothing line or toy line later in their careers.

“Baby sign” 32” x 20”. One of 300 silkscreened metal street signs. New York City 1996

“Baby sign” 32” x 20” Newark, New Jersey 1996
Do you think that your upbringing affects the way that you work?

Yeah, a number of things intrigue me now that come from my experiences as a child. The Identity series for example is directly linked to my fascination with how we form our identities. I also feel that the counter culture community that flourished in NYC during my formative years helped mold the artist that I am today.

“Identity/Dolores/Barcelona” 10’ x 6.5’ Barcelona Spain 2003

“Identity/Dolores/Barcelona” Detail 10’ x 6.5’ Barcelona Spain 2003
Who were some of the other MAJOR players in your art jamming of days past?

Ron English (as I mentioned before) and I were hanging out a lot back then. We changed a lot of billboards together. Shepard Fairy had just settled the lawsuit with Andre the Giant´s family and started to go strong with the whole OBEY thing. The admirable Billboard Liberation Front was off and running as well. I was working hard with Artfux and later with Cicada Corps of Artists.

“Identity/Emma/Barcelona” 46’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2006

“Identity/Emma/Barcelona” Detail 46’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2006

“Identity/Emma/Barcelona” Detail 46’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2006
When you were doing the billboards and altering street signs back in the day did you ever think art in the streets would one day be such a commodity?

Yeah, it was becoming pretty evident. So evident that I decided to stop for a while in order to continue with personal directions that were coherent.

“Terrestrial/Homage to Enric Miralles” 70’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2010

“Terrestrial/Homage to Enric Miralles” Detail 70’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2010

“Terrestrial/Homage to Enric Miralles” Detail 70’ x 40’ Barcelona Spain 2010
What is it about Spain that speaks to you?

When I came to Spain in 2001, I didn’t expect to stay as long as I did. I had a very difficult family situation and in Spain we found physical and emotional support. In Barcelona I started the Identity Series, urban ephemeral interventions done with charcoal over weathered walls. I was able to find financing for projects as well as support from family and friends.

“Terrestrial/Expectation” 340’ x 260’ Barcelona Spain 2008

“Composite Identity/Badalona” 74’ x 60’ Badalona Spain 2010
Scale must be a big motivator in your work as you seem to be going bigger and bigger. What is it about scale that excites you?

I am critical of the marketing that has crept into so many facets of our lives. I decided to do work that would counter it by using the same codes used by advertisers such as scale, visibility and eye catching images. I wanted these new iconic images to be huge and placed in strategic places. Working in very large scale becomes a personal challenge but it also allows me to bring attention to important social issues.

“Identity/David/London” 24’ x 16’ London England 2009
How do you conceptualize some of your bigger art projects.

The location, the scale and the materials that I decide to use are usually chosen to emphasise what I am trying to state with each project. In the case of EXPECTATION having the portrait of Barack Obama made with sand and gravel was like making a giant mandala to pray for change but also alludes to how all the hope could fade away like sand. Creating the piece outside of the US points to how the outcome of the election would affect the whole world.

“Identity/Raquel-Maria/Madrid” 62’ x 30’ (x2) Madrid 2006

The Gal·la project, created as part of the first planetary art exhibit called “eARTh” curated by 350.org was created using shade material since the piece was made to bring attention to the problem of sunlight that cannot escape back into space because of greenhouse gases. I chose a little girl named Gal·la who lives in the Ebro Delta as a symbol of the generations that will have to pay the price for our inability to act today. Her portrait was constructed using a labyrinth design to allude to the tenacity of the human spirit to find a solution.

“Identity/Maria/Tudela” 30’ x 20’ Tudela de Navarra Spain

The Identity Series murals are created with charcoal that fades away and becomes a memory, like the warmth after an embrace. The blending of the charcoal and the wall surface with the wind, rain or the sudden destruction of the wall is to me the most important part of the process. The Identity series is a time based work. It’s not about the finished image but how the person depicted fades into the wall over time. The memory that is left confirms the importance and fragility of every existence. My intent is to have identity, place and memory become one.

“Identity/Chabalita/Monterrey” 35’ x 25’ Monterrey Mexico 2010

“Identity/Chabalita/Monterrey” Detail 35’ x 25’ Monterrey Mexico 2010
Is there something about landscaping that makes you feel more organic in the way you work?

Creating artwork whether it is in an urban context, in my studio or in an open field has always felt organic to me. I mean organic in the sense that it comes naturally, easy, it flows and is part of who I am as a person. I like coming up with an idea and throwing myself at the challenge.

“Identity/Santo/Valencia” 23’ x 16’ Valencia Spain 2009
Do you have more large scale landscapes in the works?

Yeah. I will be creating another piece in the Terrestrial Series later this year. I can’t say where yet but it will be a really cool one.

“Identity/Santo/Valencia” Detail 23’ x 16’ Valencia Spain 2009
How do you choose your subject matter?

It depends. Usually I look for anonymous people that feel identified with the area where I create the piece. I like to involve the residents in the creative process. Sometimes I choose the subject matter to question current events. In the case of the Enric Miralles piece it was to give homage to an amazingly talented Spanish architect who was able to leave an amazing legacy though his life was cut short.

“Identity/Tina/Ljubljana” 52’ x 30’ Ljubljana Slovania 2009
How much of the art you are doing these days is socially or politically based?

A good amount of my work is socially based but I have other things that make me tick as well. My Urban Analogies Series is really just based on the beauty of very old wall surfaces and how they blend with the images that I create on them.

“Identity/jabonero/Tudela” 40’ x 16’ Tudela de Navarra Spain 2006
Do you think that there is beauty in suffering or just the opposite?

Suffering sucks. People see what I do and focus on how hard it must be to accomplish. I don’t see that side of it. The deal is that if you are really into what you’re doing it doesn’t seem difficult… it’s just a good amount of enjoyable work.

“Urban Analogy #10”, 90” x 240”, 2010
Would you say you are a generally a happy person?

Yeah, the class clown thing has stayed with me all my life.

“Urban Analogy #9”, 140” x 100”, 2010
I know you recently had your very first gallery show in Barcelona which sold out to rave reviews. Do you have more gallery work on the horizon?

It took me a long time to come up with a gallery direction that was coherent with what I did in the street. It had to feel right. I decided that I wanted to give importance to old urban surfaces for the passage of time that they portray. I had to figure out a way to remove very old wall surfaces and transfer them onto wooden panels. It took me two years to perfect the process. The Barcelona show ended in September of last year and I had no work left to move around. I have just taken off the next three months to focus on creating new work for the Urban Analogies Series and to set up new exhibitions. New leads would be more than welcome.

“Urban Analogy #11”, 160” x 120”, 2010
Do you have any famous last words?

Remember to floss.

Manuel Bello and Fecal Face would like to thank Jorge Rodriguez Gerada for being an all around rad guy who deserves all the success in the world.

“Urban Analogy #16”, 90” x 150”, 2010
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