ABOVE: Wonder Horse, by Detroit area artist Ron Rodriguez
AD: Thank you for describing the work physically. I have to say, a riding horse -- because it's been a classic and popular childhood toy for many of us…for such along time…for generations – it’s the kind of piece that’s going to get your attention when you walk through a space. It’s something that’s familiar, and comforting even.
RR: It’s placed in a gallery setting too.
AD: And because it’s placed in a gallery setting and it’s been painted silver, it looks like a trophy horse of gargantuan size. It’s definitely an attention getter. And then once the eyes catch all these figures in the middle and above, you know, you can’t help…you’d have to be brain dead to not wonder what’s going on here, you know? And to wonder what meaning lies behind it. So, one thing I want to ask is -- seeing all of this, I [initially] wonder…where did you find the horse? Was it something you had in your family? Something that belonged to one of your children? Something that was passed down? Something you found at a garage sale? Where did you find the horse in the first place; where did it come from?
RR: Well, I drive a truck, because that’s the best thing for my lifestyle, for the things I like to do. And so, sometimes when I’m leaving my neighborhood, on trash day in the morning, I see things discarded on the side of the road that have potential. And that definitely had potential. I threw it in the back of the truck. And I put it in my art studio at 333 Midland. And I didn’t do anything with it for many months. I just had it elevated up on this shelf that I put up, way up high on one of the walls until I was ready to do something with it. I really didn’t know exactly [what]. I knew I needed to make some kind of initial change to it, to start the ball rolling, you know?
AD: You sort of had to let it sit there and sit and wait and acclimate to your environment and let it speak to you for a while, I’m assuming.
RR: Well, at first it was just out of sight, out of mind; it was just up there. But [later when] I was preparing for a show with other pieces going on, and I think maybe at that time I looked up and thought, that’s got a lot of potential. It’s got a lot of wow factor, potentially. So I brought it down and, I have plenty of power tools, and I decided I’m just gonna go ahead and cut this thing in half and see what that brings me.
AD: Well, this is Michigan. That’s definitely a move after Tim Taylor’s own heart, with the power tools. When – at what point in the process -- did you decide you would dissect the rocking horse to make your statement? And would I be correct that you'd dissected it first and then painted it?
RR: Yeah, the paint came afterwards. I think maybe by this time it’s probably been about…two years? Right, because the show for this was just last year. So, it’s not even a full two years [since I found the horse] when I first cut it. I cut it and gave it a light sand and primed it. And then sat on it longer trying to figure out my next step. But once I figured out what I wanted to do, or at least the direction I wanted to go with the interior of the rocking horse, ideas just kept coming to me each and every time I would pick up that piece again – because remember I had other things going on, other works -- everything was just rolling together. It wasn’t where I finished one piece and went on to the other. I had things going on simultaneously and I had different work stations for each thing within my studio space.
AD: That’s definitely multi-tasking. Could even be what’s called slow-motion multi-tasking. You had a lot going on. Why silver? What drew you to the color silver for this?
RR: Well, primarily because I wanted to limit the colors that I was going to use. I wanted…I didn’t really want to have a variety of colors and any psychology that really goes behind them. I mean, there’s psychology that goes behind monochrome as well, but I really wanted to limit the colors I was going to introduce. And since I knew that I was going to cast these figures in aluminum, having it silver just made sense.
AD: It’s a beautiful choice and everything ties together beautifully in terms of tone. I must say, the men, all the little silver men, the silver men that walk, and march, and climb, and appear to tumble and, in some cases, are submerged, and ascend and descend inside of the cavity you created -- some of them even seeming to be falling or semi-submerged...all of them seeming to walking with assertive purpose. And when I first glimpsed them, I thought – it just looked like poetry. It looked like maybe there was some kind of commentary going on about work, maybe even about life. A piece like this certainly is not a piece that is solely about physical composition [for composition's sake], or just a composition of parts, or pleasing arrangement. There’s definitely -- I would describe this as pregnant with meaning. So I’m wondering, what was your motivation for using the men, in the first place?
RR: Well, I wanted to use men, because I don’t often use real people in the things I do. I do do it, but don’t often do it. I try to create things more abstractly or just invent things on my own. But for this, I did want to say something about humans in a labyrinth, trying to find their way out or find their way through or, for this, to find purpose. For their own individual purpose. And the figures in there aren’t meant to convey, like, a group of people. It’s meant to convey one person or all people as individuals, but not necessarily as a society. And what worked out for me, with some of the thoughts, is having the figure in a suit. I remember years ago when I was in New York City and there was a graffiti artist – and I don’t know his name, or her name for that matter -- that did these suited figures that were placed on buildings and sidewalks, and sometimes the arms and legs stretched out, which was straight black. I don’t think they spray-painted it, I think that they maybe initially had, like, a stencil they spray-painted [with], but they would elongate the legs or arms. And I remember following this image, because this took a path, like a route through the city. And I thought it was really clever. Sometimes the tie was flapping behind them. But it was just a straight black image with whatever color. It might be a concrete color or the building color --
AD: They were like silhouettes.
AD: About how many men are suspended in the cavity between the upper and lower hemispheres of the horse, and what do they mean -- what's their purpose?