Moon Foulard


Culturgest, Lisbon, PT

curated by Bruno Marchand
Ambivalence and ambiguity are two pervasive characteristics in the work of Rodrigo Hernández (Mexico City, 1983). Almost everything in his universe oscillates between states, as if comfortably inhabiting transience. Between drawing, painting, mural, sculpture and installation, his works deliberately seek miscegenation or contamination between disciplines. On the other hand, the interests these works put forth are also far from univocal or linear. In his universe, art and craft, high culture and popular expression, the past and the contemporary, the private and the political, the narrative and the elliptical coexist and strengthen one another, in a logic which dispenses with hierarchies and makes the law of attraction the only rule of the game.

The exhibition Rodrigo Hernández brings to Culturgest bears witness to this. Moon Foulard is the result of the confluence of a broad set of the artist’s interests, made to revolve around a tutelary figure: the Italian stylist Emilio Pucci. Notorious for the revolutionary way he imagined the use of prints in ready-to-wear haute couture, Pucci was a pioneer in combining the use of light, stretch fabrics with garishly coloured geometric compositions. The iconographic context of the exhibition begins and ends with Pucci, but its ideological scope is considerably broader. In fact, it is part of a long-standing debate about the place of aesthetic expression in artistic production – a dispute about the role that taste, style, form, the ornament, and, ultimately, the pursuit of pleasure, can still play in contemporary society.

By way of this lateral thinking, Moon Foulard brings together a group of elements related to the work and imagination of Pucci. This exhibition is marked by the practice of skiing, a given idea of elegance and comfort, summer leisure, sirens, moons and suns, patterns and reticula, flowers and other lush vegetation, but, in particular, an undeniable appetite for ornament and for the exercise of aesthetic expression. Its iconographic context may begin and end with Pucci, but its ideological scope is considerably broader. In fact, it can be situated within the trajectory of an already long-standing dispute about the place of aesthetic expression in artistic production – a debate around which all the rhetoric of modernity was organized, from the romantic period onwards, and which found its clearest expression when Adolf Loos prophesied, in 1910, that rejection of ornament was synonymous with spiritual strength. Spiritual strength is, of course, the moralist euphemism for this idea that aesthetic expression, the exercise of taste, of style, of form, of ornament and, ultimately, the pursuit of pleasure, should not be part of the supposedly progressive and socially engaged mission of art.

I do not think that Rodrigo Hernández has anything against this supposedly progressive and socially engaged reading of art. I suspect, however, that he is not particularly in favor of it either. What is more, I suspect that the spirituality that interests him in art is much closer to that advocated by Kandinsky; that what his work seeks is the realization of the type of sensitive relationship with the world that Susan Sontag defended when she clamored for an erotics of art; that the exercise of his creative freedom is a case of ongoing identity construction and not an evident and calculated response to whatever debate is the order of the day. In Hernández’s universe nothing is evident or calculated. On the contrary: the exercise of his sensitive relationship with the world is characterized by imagination, by transfiguration, by metamorphosis. This is why Moon Foulard is a field where the artisanal and the industrial, art and haute couture, abstraction and figuration meet and merge; it is the space of an elliptical narrative, made of suggestion rather than declarative moments.

The fact that the flow of this exhibition leads to a tie with a moon on top is not a mere accident. The tie is, simultaneously, the ultimate masculine adornment and the most feminine piece of all standard men’s clothing. In a sense, it is a concession, an exception at the heart of an otherwise absurdly controlled and restrictive code. A tamed, masculinized scarf has to be an ultimate symbol of ambiguity: the suspended promise of an accessory, the dismantled illusion of a self-determination. The paradoxical quality this piece conveys is accentuated by the presence of the moon, a central figure in the exhibition and the emblem of a crosscutting eroticization. Its anthropomorphic smile suggests a forbidden satisfaction, as if it knew that the kaleidoscopic torrent of motifs displayed on its body recovers some of the freedom it has been denied by a normative moralism. Moon Foulard is an act of resistance. It is a gesture that knows there is no ideology without form and no form without ideology.