I'm always on the lookout for new and exceptional contemporary artists.
My journeys take me around the world to find works that immediately speak to me, and when I saw the paintings of Daniel Rios Rodriguez at the White Columns booth at the Independent Art Fair last year, I quickly bought some and sought out additional info about him.
Daniel earned a BFA from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 2005 and his MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2007. He was featured at White Columns Gallery in Manhattan in their White Room project space (where I was introduced to his work) and also at last year's NADA and Independent Art Fairs. Daniel's paintings, which have been compared to works by Francis Picabia, Paul Klee, and Pablo Picasso, have been presented in group shows across the United States and in Europe.
Daniel's debut solo exhibition, "Paint Work", will be shown at One River Gallery in Englewood, N.J. on March 1 and will run through April 14. With the show about to open, I wanted to get his thoughts on a wide range of subjects so I could share the excitement that I feel about his work with other art enthusiasts.
Matt: At what point did you first that know you wished to be an artist?
Daniel: I had a powerful interest in art from a pretty early age but I was not aware that a person could actually earn a living as an artist. My father was an artist of sorts, always drawing some kind of funny pictures in his free time for my sisters and I when we were kids, or making something that needed a creative touch. It was not until I was stationed in Louisiana during my short stint in the Air Force that I began drawing more, and I soon realized that I really didn't want to do anything else but pursue a full-time career as a professional artist.
Matt: How did your schooling influence and shape your current work?
Daniel: From my very first art class in community college to my last year in grad school at Yale, I was lucky to learn from teaching artists who were truly serious about their own work. I understood pretty quickly that they weren't just teaching art, they were also making it, and that this was a full time pursuit. Teaching was their 2nd job and making art was their first, and I think the mix of their work ethic, their range of mediums and ideas, and their determination inspired me to be rigorous and reflective about my own work.
Matt: We see clouds in a lot of your current works. What's the story behind them?
Daniel: I'm not precisely sure how clouds entered into my work. The drawing table in my studio faces a window and as a regular routine, I usually stand and make a few drawings before I do anything else. I'm guessing that at some point, I was gazing at the clouds, made a drawing, and it stuck. Also , when I made one of my first cloud paintings, I was really feeling that my head was very much in the clouds and that things generally were changing quickly for me. I really like the cloud as a signifier for a change in form, mood or weather. Clouds can be ominous but also comforting if you lie in the grass and look up at them. It's also funny to picture my face in the clouds, as they float on by.
Matt: You seem to have your own language in your work. How has it evolved over time?
Daniel: Though I'm reluctant to call it a language myself, I'm sure that lots of the objects and images that I work with tend to be deciphered. Much like the clouds, many of these images are an outgrowth of reflecting on my family as well as thinking about the varied objects and ideas that I confront on a day-to-day basis. I'm disinclined to call it a "language" just because I'm not sure that I'm striving for legibility. I want the paintings themselves, not the symbols, to be what's compelling. I like when the meanings of things are elusive, but still captivating.
Matt: What advice would you give to an 18-year-old who's about to start a BFA program, and aspires to one day become a working artist?
Daniel: Read lots of books, experience as much art as you can, and work work work!
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