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Jan. 31, 2013

CSU gallery showcases graduate’s artwork

By Kelsey Smith

Danté Rodriguez is showing his newest collection, “New Works,” in the South Gallery at The Galleries at Cleveland State University through March 2.

Rodriguez, a 2003 Cleveland State graduate with a degree in Drawing, is an emerging artist in Cleveland and currently the mount maker at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
According to art experts throughout the city, including Robert Thurmer, director of The Galleries at Cleveland State, he is one of Cleveland’s most promising artists.

“His work shows evidence of creative and innovative thinking about the visual representation of identity,” Thurmer explained. “It is an expression of personal feelings related to his cultural heritage and contemporary representations of cultural markers — color, pattern, hair, fragmented figuration, etc.”

"New Works" is a collection inspired by a previous work of Rodriguez’s called “Hed-Footer III,” which combined human and animal forms that were painted in bright geometric shapes.

This new collection features similarly graphic and conceptual pieces that transform the recognizable human body into abstract shapes and colors.
From idea to reality, Rodriguez said the collection was completed in about seven and a half months.

Like other shows the gallery has hosted, Rodriguez’s collection focuses on social ideas, including ethnic and cultural identity. By using abstract shapes viewers are able to question their own identity and form a new impression of themselves.

“I started to explore portraiture as an abstract form taking the composition of a ‘head’ and ‘body,’” Rodriguez explained. “Many of us can identify with many aspects of our culture and ethnicity, but what happens when you strip everything recognizable to us, even our human form? You are left with shapes and colors.”

Though Rodriguez’s collection focuses on identity related to culture and ethnicity, he was hesitant to accept the invitation to show at Cleveland State’s gallery until he knew he was chosen for his talent, not his own ethnicity.

“I was asked by the director, Robert Thurmer, last spring to show at the galleries,” Rodriguez said.

“At first I was hesitant, since university galleries tend to ask Latino artists to show when it’s Hispanic month, but Robert assured me that he liked what I’ve been doing and wanted to give me an opportunity.”

“His work is technically proficient, it has compelling visual interest and it is rich in symbolic and cognitive content,” Thurmer explained.

Rodriguez plans on doing more work with graphite and charcoal in the future, explaining that he needs to get back to what he misses.

His next solo show is scheduled for September at the Rotten Meat Gallery in Midtown.

"Hipster Hed-Footer" Courtesy of Dante Rodriguez. Gallery photo by Kelsey Smith.