Lordy Rodriguez, Polar Ice Cap North, 2007; ink on paper; 76 x 64 inches
Polar Ice Cap South, 2007; ink on paper; 76 x 64 inches; images courtesy Clementine Gallery, New York
In two large diptychs—ink drawings on view at Clementine Gallery—Lordy Rodriguez continues his creation of fictitious maps that comment on the manner in which we view our surroundings. In many past works, Rodriguez focused on the reconfiguration of North America—the deconstruction and relocation of various states and the addition of altogether new ones. In other works, such as his Geological Series, the artist zoomed in on various topographical elements like shorelines or mountainous terrain, consequently creating abstract compositions devoid of text that offer little context for the viewer.
The drawings on view at Clementine represent somewhat of a departure for Rodriguez. They demonstrate a new balance between the meticulous nature of his restructured maps of the United States and the context-free quality that defines his abstract explorations of geological anomalies. The two horizontal diptychs, Polar Ice Cap North and Polar Ice Cap South, display a rather intricate delineation of the North and South poles, yet their topography is rendered arbitrarily. Given that our knowledge of polar surfaces is derived mostly from satellite imagery, it is understandable that much of Rodriguez’ portrayal relies on his imagination, as well as that of the viewer. The variegated patterns that fill the grid surface of his polar ice caps—diagonal green lines, minuscule specks and blue organic forms—are insights into his projected vision of their landscape.
While Rodriguez utilizes a conventional cartographic structure, his drawings exemplify the mediated nature by which we perceive our surroundings. Whether local or global, most contemporary maps offer a distilled view of any given terrain; a destination may seem accessible, yet it is rendered in such a highly simplified and ambiguous manner that distance itself becomes an abstraction. This experience, much like Rodriguez’ drawings, evokes a sense of dislocation, leaving one to fill in the missing details with their imagination—or to the best of their preexisting knowledge.
Polar Ice Cap North and Polar Ice Cap South gain broader significance when examined within the context of the increased awareness of global warming. Based on observations this past summer, scientists have now reduced their estimate of the first ice-free Arctic summer to as early as the mid-21st century. This radical change will have a catastrophic impact on the globe and the global community. Rodriguez addresses this issue subtly, by giving form to uncharted territory that we can only vaguely visualize. These drawings serve as a depository for our speculations, judgments and anxieties regarding the impermanent configuration of the polar ice caps and the resultant—and imminent—global climate change. Thus, in portraying a speculative topography, Rodriguez effectively brings to our attention the precariousness of our current reality.
Yaelle Amir is an independent curator and writer living in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including artUS, Beautiful/Decay and Sculpture Magazine. Her upcoming curatorial project Into the Private Eye will take place in January 2008 at the ISE Foundation in NYC.