What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

September 19, 2019

Francisco Rodríguez
Midday Demon
Steve Turner
September 7 - October 12, 2019

Francisco Rodríguez

Francisco Rodríguez is a Chilean born, now London based painter whose large and small scale figurative works create an unsettling narrative. Rodríguez employs a limited palette, soft hues of green, orange, black and white, to depict ambiguous landscapes and fragmented figures who inhabit this space alongside isolated animals and suggestions of nature. In a painting entitled Aridity (all works 2019), Rodríguez depicts two partial figures against a sand-colored ground filled with a smattering of orange and white plants. The figure at the top of the painting is fully rendered though cropped at the waist leaving just his legs. He wears brown boots and blue jeans and holds a flowering branch in his hand. The second figure lies on his back, his body bisected by the bottom of the canvas. He is outlined in rough gray brush stokes. Barely visible are traces of his upraised arms— as if disappearing into the background. This subtle painting suggests a cycle of death and rebirth amidst an arid landscape.

The other large paintings in Rodríguez's exhibition, entitled Midday Demon, also depict enigmatic scenarios where either something just occurred or is about to happen. A black crow and the splayed legs of a horizontal figure share the space in In the Garden. The ominous light in the painting glows a fiery orange as if the match in the crow's beak had ignited the apocalypse. A band of black trees with gray shadows divides the composition separating ground from sky. In the distance, a circular sun/moon rises above a tall chain-link fence. Nine smaller paintings share the back wall. In each of these small works, Rodríguez explores the theme of a midday demon — a real or imagined presence caused by the oppressive heat of the midday sun that was prevalent growing up in Santiago. Corner is a haunting work in which a silhouette with a growling demon's face glares at the viewer. The demon's back is against a tall white fence behind which towers three tall trees in an orange sky. Corner is also the title of a painting of a fallen figure, whose upper body angles off the bottom edge of canvas leaving only a headless torso and legs (in the same field of flowers as Aridity) below the orange sky.

Dog at Night captures the animal unaware, its eyes glow red as it looks up from its night prowl. A red crescent moon floats above a fence in the grayish blue-green sky. A companion to Dog at Night is the larger work, The Beast. Here, a dog-shaped silhouette is centered in the same desaturated landscape that pervades many of the other works. In its mouth is what appears to be a cigarette. Its crudely defined form is more a phantom than a realistic representation. Rodríguez's figures and animals have the aura of helplessness, though not desperation as if they were caught in a dream world where they have no control but are not really in danger. The narrative that can be spun from these elements pictures a lonely world on the brink of disaster where isolated figures hope for better days.

Painted in a pared down, illustrative style, Rodríguez's works reinforce the fragmentary nature of stories waiting to be woven together across numerous canvases. His works are thought provoking enigmas about the fate of the world.