Opening reception with the artist: Friday, June 16, 5-8PM
Q&A with Gil Rocha and Fernando Andrade: Saturday, June 17, 2 PM
Moderated by Rebecca Gomez, Curator, National Hispanic Cultural Center
Gerald Peters Contemporary is pleased to present Gil Rocha: 2nd Place. Working across various modes of art-making such as sculpture, collage, assemblage and installation art, this exhibition of new work continues Rocha’s exploration and celebration of Mexican-American border culture.
Born and raised in Laredo, Rocha has always focused on the sociopolitical and rich and complex realities of life on the border. The artist reflects, “The Mexican-American border is an amalgamation, a unique blend of two cultures; a two thousand mile border that varies from region to region, each with distinct politics, religion, topography, cuisine, and dialect. Despite the nuances, there is a common thread tying it all together; a disorderly aesthetic. This aesthetic is based on survival rather than appearance, which creates a sensibility in areas with limited resources which I find beautiful.”
It is this aesthetic that drives Rocha’s work. Assembling found personal and household objects, Rocha works within the style of Rasquachismo. Coined by Chicano scholar Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, the term refers to “making the most with the least” but can also refer to a worldview, “the view of the underdog, which combines inventiveness with a survivalist attitude”. This perspective is reflected in the title of the show, 2nd Place, as further explained the artist, “My pieces are assemblages and sculptures constructed using found objects. They are fragmented narratives illuminating somber moments combined with the willingness to triumph over adversity. These are depictions of the underdog and how second place feels…Esfuerzo eterno, y resistencia!”.
In these most recent works, Rocha also draws aesthetic inspiration from Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, and Abraham Cruzvillegas-artists who approached making art by using intuition and accepting mistakes as part of their work. Rocha applies the same sensibility in his often precarious and multilayered compositions of stacked, grouped or balanced discarded or castoff objects.
The resulting works reflect not only the culture from which these objects permeate but deliver a commentary on the complexities of human connection and the resilience of the human spirit. Author and curator Susie Kalil states, “With their blunt-force assertions, their challenging irony, their earthy sexuality and their embrace of life as a big, messy possibility, his sculptures and assemblages are both serious and accessible, connecting us to our own feelings of having to endure an often absurd, unfair world.”
As Rocha continues his interpretations of border culture, he often engages the use of language. Fascinated with the border’s “vibrant dialogue and cross-pollinated vocabulary (Tex-Mex, Pocho, Spanglish)”, Rocha often teases the viewer with word-play, utilizing homonyms and rhymes. These elements lend a playfulness to the works but also establish a personal language that is reinforced by familiar objects that make up the works. Together, Rocha uses these elements to investigate ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition, perseverance, unity, and community.
Gil Rocha received his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His works have been presented nationwide including notable exhibitions with the El Paso Museum of Art, Museo de Art de Ciudad Juarez and Museu del Barrio, New York. This exhibition marks Rocha’s first with Gerald Peters Contemporary.