Louisville Magazine

AUG 2013

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Page 145 of 156

visual Into the Mystic By Jon Lee Cope Photos by Ted Tarquinio A visit with the artist Julio Cesar Rodriguez T he simplest of nature's efects — birds, trees, clouds — are the fodder of Cuban artist Julio Cesar Rodriguez's inspiration. Tese totems take on great meaning in his imagination, and in translation become intensely personal paintings. His work is technically masterful, ideologically stimulating and deeply subjective. Te artist resides in the most everydayAmerican of places — a large apartment complex, the kind that houses hundreds of At three, he remembers, he was drawing on books his father had imported from Russia; at 12, he was enrolled in art school. "I was born with a pencil in my hand," Rodriguez says. His study of the Spanish masters — Bartolomé Murillo and Joaquín Sorolla — led him to explore working in oils. "I always loved the classic painters," he says. "I could see how an artist could get lost in the technique. It is so important to begin with the great ones." When he found the surrealists, such as Salvador Dalí to Miami in the early 1980s, and they sponsored Rodriguez's quest to join them in 2007. Louisville called after Rodriguez saw an art show at the Muhammad Ali Center that featured Cuban friend and former student Carlos Gamez de Francisco. Te exhibition was a success, with several pieces purchased by the collection of Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, owners of 21c. "I could see that (Louisville) was a place of support for the artist," Rodriguez says. "In Florida I did not feel this way. I "I felt like I was in jail," says the Cuban artist, "and I did not want to paint and raise my family in a jail." families. From the window of his unit near Hikes Point, you can see and hear children splashing and playing in a communal swimming pool. His two-bedroom houses him, his wife Maylen and his two young boys, Marcos and Julio. In a corner is a makeshift studio, with oils and brushes, where Rodriguez, 36, paints and imagines a world far outside the apartment walls. He was raised in Holguin, Cuba, a city by the sea that is considered an "artistic" region of the island. Tere is a well-known School of Art in Holguin, and Rodriguez was both a student and a professor there before immigrating to this country seven years ago. Louisville has a healthy number of refugees from Holguin; it is the way of Cuban émigrés to help others from their communities get to America, and this township has been represented in Louisville since the early 1960s. Rodriguez was something of a prodigy. Clockwise: Julio Cesar Rodriguez in his studio; Alter Piece Realizes Pain; The Marionette; The Virtue of My Suit. and René Magritte, his work became his own. "I began to fnd my own way," he says. "I began to think about ideas and to work from the intellect. I began to see the mystic." In 2000, things started to happen for Rodriguez. He held a well-received exhibition in Havana and found himself working on a mix of fguration and Expressionism. "My paintings became my artist's condition, my own place in the world," he says. "I began to use myself and my family. My own hands would be at the front of the painting, or they would be tied, to the earth or to fate, and I began to be my own mystic idea of humanity." In Castro's Cuba, artists are often revered as "of the few lucky ones" who can express themselves. "To taste that freedom," Rodriguez says, "it is very hard to give up." When his work was noticed outside Cuba — shown in Puerto Rico, Spain and several European capitals — he dreamt of a life of the island. "I felt like I was in jail (in his native country)," he says, "and I did not want to paint and raise my family in a jail." He had relatives who had immigrated said to myself, 'I must move here.' I talked to my wife, to my cousin who lives here, and I felt that it was my fate." Once in Louisville, he got a job at Garden Ridge, the home-decorating chain store, which he describes as "artistic in its own way," and then brought his family. Te idea of fate often infuences Rodriguez's work. In Te Marionette, a painting on display at Revelry Boutique Gallery, you see the portrait of a man guided by destiny: hands reach out while the rest of the body is twisted by strings pulling in diferent directions. "We are all taken by fate," the artist says. "I am here, you are here, and all are pulled and drawn to each other." He combines birds and trees, dew and clouds, with the human form. "Te birds in my paintings are my ideas . . . and I can snatch them out of the air with my own hands," he says. "When I begin a painting, I do not know what ideas will come, but that is my freedom." An exhibit of Rodriguez's work will be on display at the Revelry Boutique Gallery, 980 Barret Ave., from Aug. 10 through Sept. 19. 8.13 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 143

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