Meisterschüler Atelier, Kunstakademie Karlsruhe

Text by Konrad Bitterli
Light from the north enters through a large, slightly tapered rooflight and illuminates the studio. It makes the walls and even the slightest details of the room appear in sober clarity. The artist Rodrigo Hernández, who was born in Mexico City in 1983 and today lives in Karlsruhe, knows how to use this situation of concentration - not, as one might expect, for the presentation of classical painting, but for the wonderfully luminous floor piece Spiral (2011), the deeper meaning of which rests in darkness.

Spiral could be interpreted using the terminology of painting - as a redefinition of the traditional figure-ground problem, but translated into the third dimension. In an area of roughly seven square metres, several small objects are grouped in a bizarre rendezvous on top of radiantly white tiles. Inevitably, one recalls the oft-quoted comparison of Comte de Lautréamont, the French poet and grandfather of the Surrealists: "(...) as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!", though Hernández's installation Spiral is of a distinctly more tranquil nature. The six jewel-like miniatures, each set on a ceramic tile, contrast with their gleaming ground in a frugal aesthetic arrangement: a lizard, cast in metal, underneath a plexiglas dome: a stone on a wooden plinth with an opening the size of a mouse-hole: a Red Bull can sanded down to the aluminium base: a book with a white cover, which is actually a plaster cast with traces of drawing on it: a cardboard object on its side, as well as a skyscraper model. A wooden ball hangs from the ceiling on a fine thread, seemingly hovering over the surreal scenery. With only a few elements the artist creates a concentrated layout of objects, a poetically loaded topography of the mysterious.

As clearly as the articles can be labelled, since most of them derive from our everyday reality or emblematically refer to it, a conceptual interpretation in the sense of the narrative capacity of a coherent ensemble is complex, ultimately doomed to failure.  This is what the tiled field suggests: to a certain extent it is a plinth, a stage for the encounter between the equally foreign and familiar things. Each one seems to belong to a different world, to contain different stories, or to encourage different readings: a lizard, even cast in metal, could refer to nature, a Red Bull can points towards a popular form of everyday culture, and the small skyscraper could be a metaphor for the progress of civilization.  Although small-scale, some of these precious items can be viewed as models; others are life-size, and yet others seem to be both at the same time. With his precisely selected items and their diverse references on the glistening tiles, Hernández, at least mentally, literally lures us onto thin ice.

It is exactly such moments of permanent notional linking and rejecting that characterize Rodrigo Hernandez's artistic work. Even if it is formally oriented towards Minimalism or Arte Povera, it proves to be absolutely contemporary. His subtle artistic gestures are substantially formed out of the cultural source of his Latin American home, which clashes with West European visual languages just as it does with our profane everyday life. Aesthetic precision and intellectual openness - for Rodrigo Hernandez they are mutually dependent and ultimately result in what Óscar Benassini once referred to as a subjective voice for a mute message - as delicate artistic markings between worlds.