The artist’s studio has been a constant but increasingly overt theme in western art for centuries. Renaissance artists needed a cover, and the famous anecdote of Alexander the Great visiting the great painter Apelles – and finding Apelles lusting after his beautiful concubine, whose portrait he is painting -- gave license for the representation of a working studio. So from the sixteenth century, painters used the theme to celebrate the status of artists as well as the power of art, since Apelles got the girl. Successful artists built themselves splendid living and working environments, like Rubens’s house in Antwerp, now a museum. For some artists the studio serves already as a kind of museum, a space for displaying their own work or that of friends and associates, emphasizing links of camaraderie as well as competitiveness. Some artists pin up photographs of the work of important predecessors, or collect objects that stand out for their strangeness, and which inspire innovation by challenging existing conventions. The architect Borromini collected shells and helical organisms -- natural “artworks”; and Picasso’s studio in the Bateau Lavoir famously contained African masks. In both cases, the contents of the studio sparked extraordinary creativity.
A related, sometimes overlapping, theme is that of the scholar or seer in a study. This has a longer history because of the popularity of scholar saints like St. Jerome, whose workspace may be a finely carpented domestic interior, complete with snoozing cat, or a rocky cave alluding to the ascetic Jerome’s efforts to separate from his earlier secular life and to repress the visions that haunt and tempt him. Albrecht Dürer’s image of Jerome busy at his desk among books and writing implements, the necessary and familiar tools of scholarship, contrasts with the same artist’s famous image, titled Melencholia I, in which thinking seems to run aground on its own processes and resources. Even more striking is Goya’s Sleep of Reason, showing the thinker encircled by monstrous apparitions. Less apocalyptic is the wonderful image by Vermeer of an astronomer by a window, dramatizing the constricted space of the astronomer himself in contrast to the unlimited reach of his vision, linking the infinite cosmos (represented within the painting by a heavenly globe) and the astronomer’s mental space. Rembrandt’s stranger image of (perhaps) a philosopher, also by a window but dwarfed by a threatening spiral staircase, surely alludes to the difficulties as much as the achievements of intense and solitary thinking, which the stair itself, twisting and vertiginous, seems to make visible.
The serial images of Arturo Rodriguez’s School of Night show the artist alone, even isolated, though within an environment populated by proliferating presences. For decades Arturo has worked in this same small house (unlike Rubens’s conspicuous mansion, it is modestly tucked away behind a screen of trees) alongside Demi, his partner and muse, whom we occasionally also catch sight of, at work at her own paintings. All around are a lifetime of paintings and collected objects, notably the masks that loom in his visions as if endowed with agency, like a nutcracker remembered from a childhood visit to the ballet. Unlike the solid and reassuring furnishings Dürer imagined for Jerome, the spaces and objects in Arturo’s images are fluid, subject to disorienting shifts of scale and position, constituting a miniature universe that evades all distinction of inside and outside, imagined and “real.” And yet these are not threatening or uncomfortable images. Instead they provide the sense of an artist confident in his power to take familiar objects as departure points for meditations on “reality” itself, or perhaps rather the various realities that he -- and, in varying degrees, all of us – encounter in our engagement with the world. It is the artist as magus, perhaps, as well as guide to the always porous boundary between layers of experience and to the universal possibilities of an inward journey.
About Charles Burroughs:
Charles Burroughs recently retired as Smith Professor of Humanities and Chair of Classics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Previously he taught at SUNY Binghamton and Berkeley. He is a historian of architecture, urbanism, landscape design,and visual culture mostly of early modern Europe; currently he is at work on a monographic study of Botticelli's "Primavera." However, his scope has recently expanded to include the park design and and urban planning of the Olmsted firm in Rochester, NY; this involves both academic writing and hands-on restoration of historic environments as a member of a Sierra Club group.
Connections between art, spirituality and poetry began in the ancient world in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Pathways of communication were written on stone tables and papyrus scrolls, in sacred words and pictures addressed to the deities of the day and the night. From Egypt, came the Book of the Dead. From Mesopotamia, came the songs for Inanna, goddess of love and war. On the walls of temples and palaces, the stories of seeing beyond the world of matter to the world of spirit continued in the islands of the Aegean. The Palace at Knossos, the tombs of Mycenae, the underworld of the Etruscans were places where mediation between mind and spirit was the work of the shamanic priests, who led the people to the gods. Greece’s Delphic Sybill prophesied in dark riddles illustrated by the painters of pots carried to every corner of the ancient world. Then came Rome for whom Etruscan priests foretold its rise and fall chronicled on the walls of houses later occupied by the Early Christians, for whom the poetry of Hebrew Scripture merged with the prayers of the Gospels. Words, pictures, poetry, prose, hymns and secrets of worlds unseen by day but made visible in nights that brought enlightenment for those seeking knowledge beyond what the day reveals. Books, as we know them, began in the First Century, made for convenience and for the easy transport of knowledge, secular and spiritual. It is from this history that Arturo Rodríguez’s collaborative book “The School of Night” springs as a significant contribution to the developing art of bookmaking, of artist books and of books that represent a record of crossings between the everyday and the supernatural.
“The School of Night” gathers together the work of several poets and a suite of mixed media drawings by Arturo Rodríguez. The drawings came first, then the idea for creating a book as the vehicle for their display, then came the words of the poets, whose response to the drawings is simultaneously and accompaniment to their imagery and a counterpoint to their content. From William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost – “Black is the badge of hell/The hue of dungeouns and the school of night” and from Ingmar Bergman’s Vargtimmen (The Hour of the Wolf), Rodríguez wove a tapestry of images that record his life in the “School of Night,” the time of day in which he prefers to paint.
At home, at night, when the world sleeps and dreams, Rodríguez enters his personal Vargtimmen, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by his wife, Demi. The drawings that are “The School of Night” record what happens as Rodríguez moves in the transformed spaces of his home, lit by sporadic lamplight that contrast with the deep shadows of the unlit corners of his home. The lines of his movements are traced in the lines that crisscross his drawings, forming pathways of movement that link his steps to the structure of his compositions. In one drawing, the masks that hang on the walls of his home look out seemingly animated. In another drawing, Demi becomes a shamanic muse leading the artist to an internal meditations on music, on art, on literature, on religion and on the island called Cuba that was once his home.
Rodríguez moves around his home recording his contact with the presence of Night as William Blake had drawn his Ancient of Days, another name for God. There is much in “The School of Night” from Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” from Edward Munch’s “Dance of Life” and from Pablo Picasso’s “Minotaur” drawings. Touches of Dada and Surrealism emerge in “The School of Night” taking us to the world of Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire and to André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto. In Rodríguez’s hands, Europe meets Latin America and there is much in “The School of Night” that is nexus of two worlds brought to a third – the Cuban-American world of Miami’s population in exile from an island that emerges in the Cuban music that permeates the night as the sound to which Rodríguez paints. From Cuba, to Mexico, to the United States, to Spain, to Europe, the tapes and records that line the home within which “The School of Night” came to be play to bring the music of the world to the rooms between which Rodríguez walks. Sometimes he walks alone, sometimes he sits with Demi, or she sleeps as he works or they work together. In rhythm with the creative process that comes from the depths of mind and spirit to make art, Rodríguez draws, paints, reads, plays music, thinks, dreams and meditates – alone or accompanied - and these moments of existence are all recorded in “The School of Night.”
For Rodríguez, “The School of Night” is the summation and outpouring of the conscious and subconscious acts of creation and communication that animates the spiritual life of the drawings that trace the path of night in the artist’s home. Shamanic in essence and deliberatively expressive of connections between spirituality and art, Rodríguez’s “School of Night” evokes Carl Gustav Jung’s “The Red Book” or The Liber Novus” (1915-1930). In “The School of Night” as in Jung’s Red Book, there emerges the world of the mind of the author/artist and the knowledge gained in the shamanic process called artistic creation. Figures from the world of spirit, invented and imagined, emerge on the page. Experiences translated into their shapes in dreams and thoughts are given form transformed by light, shade and line. The deities of our lives interact with those declared to be by the religions of the world. Visionary, mystical, fantastical and imagined beings move shape shifting in both works, which draw from the subconscious universal streams of spirituality and art from which each emerged.
“The School of Night” is the record of artistic creativity and of the sources from which it springs. It is also the life of Arturo Rodríguez given visual form. More than the record of the mind of one artist, “The School of Night” is a visionary venture from which a new generation of poets sings the songs of life.
Lynette M.F. Bosch, Ph.D. is a Professor of Art History at SUNY, College at Geneseo Department of Art History.
Professor Bosch received her Ph.D. from Princeton University, specializing in Hispanic art. She has written and contributed to several books including: Cuban-American Art in Miami: Exile, Identity and the Neo-Baroque, Art, Liturgy and Legend in Renaissance Toledo: The Mendoza and the Iglesia Primada as well several articles in Latin American Art Magazine on Cuban-American art.
Pedro Martínez Fraga, Arturo Rodriguez, C. Ryan Reetz.
Joaquín Badajoz, José Koser, Arturo Rodríguez, Demi, Jorge Moya, Bruce Weber, Andrés Reynaldo, Alejandro Anreus.
Arturo Rodriguez is a professor emeritus at The School of Night. It’s a haunted landscape, populated not only by his own phantoms but by the ghosts of books read, films watched and music listened. Like a pianist endowed with a prodigious left hand, the mastery of his domain is absolute and he is able to wring riveting images of stark, resplendent beauty from more shades of gray than anyone would have thought imaginable. Here is the Rodriguez household just before dawn. As the first Dylan advises: “Do not go gentle into that good night."
Nat Chediak founded and directed, for eighteen years, the Miami Film Festival. He is the author of Diccionario de jazz latino and a Grammy-winning music producer.
Como noctámbulo empedernido que padece no solo el influjo de la noche sino ese incurable que es el de la poesía, Arturo Rodríguez (Ranchuelo, Las Villas, 1956) nos regala The School of Night, una deleitable confabulación entre poesía y dibujo.
Publicado por Island Project, The School of Nightes un libro de edición limitada en el que verso y trazo conspiran en magnífica cópula que nos asalta y seduce a un tiempo. La colaboración que comprende una selección de poetas amigos del pintor (Alejandro Anreus, Lorenzo García Vega, José Koser, Andrés Reynaldo, Pío E. Serrano, David Shapiro, Laura Y. Tartakoff, Fernando Villaverde y Bruce Weber) es una suerte de conjuro, un talismán armado del cual podemos atrevernos en medio de la noche abriéndonos paso entre nuestros miedos y fantasmas más íntimos, los más queridos y por ende, los más temidos.
Los dibujos originales que dieron lugar a The School of Night forman parte de la exposición homónima curada por Juan A. Martínez y abierta ahora al público en el Frost Art Museum. Tras el trazo monocromo –cual visión nocturna– nos sobrecogen escenarios íntimos, cotidianos (la alcoba, la mesa de comer, el estudio del artista), arrancados de su apacible acontecer por el febril delirio en que cuernos, picos, dientes, garras acechan amenazantes en medio de la calma nocturna.
“Los dibujos representan los aspectos más sobresalientes de su casa”, explica Martínez, “que se vuelve desconocida por la penumbra, el silencio sobrecogedor de la madrugada y el espíritu agitado. Hay imágenes de máscaras fantasmagóricas provenientes de su colección que interactúan con sombras de sí mismo y de su esposa en perturbadores espacios llenos de objetos vagos. La noche reina y el misterio abunda”..•
Janet Batet es escritora, curadora y crítica de arte. Escribe para diferentes publicaciones, galerías y museos.
The School of Night, en el Frost Art Museum de la FIU, Modesto Maidique Campus, 10975 SW 17 St., (305) 348-2890. Hasta el 24 de agosto
Arturo Rodriguez was born in Cuba in 1956. In 1971, at the age of fourteen, Rodríguez and his family left Cuba for Spain. It was in Madrid that he discovered the magic of the Prado Museum, where he spent countless hours studying the great masters, Velazquez and Goya, Caravaggio and Titian.
Moving once again, Rodríguez settled in Miami in 1974. The works of Arturo Rodríguez have been widely exhibited throughout the world; in Switzerland, France, Spain, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia and the United States. His works are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Israel Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Norton Museum, Boca Raton Museum, Bass Museum, Frost Art Museum, Lowe Art Museum, Museum of Art (Fort Lauderdale), Polk Museum of Art and Center for the Arts (Vero Beach).
Silencio, que esta dormido.
Un artista se define por la creación de un lenguaje. Arturo Rodríguez ha creado el suyo. En este libro un grupo de amigos poetas hemos tratado de ilustrar unos dibujos que presentan dos enormes dificultades a la escritura: son demasiado personales para descifrarlos por la crítica y demasiado universales para apropiárnoslos por la literatura.
Sin embargo, la empatía de los autores con el pintor le ha dado a la obra una unidad. Disímiles en estilos y tonos, todos coincidimos en la atmósfera. O mejor dicho, la poderosa y sombría fuerza de los dibujos nos impuso un mismo ánimo. Puede que ninguno de nosotros se levante a las tres de la madrugada para enfrentar sus demonios con la coartada de que va a enfrentar el lienzo en blanco. Pero ya sabemos lo que cuesta. A esa hora sin ventanas, sin música.
Hay artistas que luchan por alucinar a pesar de la razón. Arturo, en cambio, desespera por razonar en medio de la alucinación. En estos dibujos, esa tensión amenaza a veces con rozar lo abstracto. Alguien, con menos paciencia, hubiera terminado en una brutal y hermética mancha. Anclado en una tradición, sabedor de que el experimento sólo vale cuando trasciende la tradición, Arturo persiste en mantener una narrativa en cada pieza.
Si la pintura que ilustra la palabra tiende a la claridad, la palabra que ilustra la pintura tiende a la confusión. No creo que ninguno de nuestros textos consiga explicar alguno de estos dibujos. Probablemente nadie entre nosotros se propuso tan arriesgada misión. La costumbre asocia el aquelarre a la fiesta y la máscara a la impostura. Aquí el aquelarre es tragedia y la máscara es rostro.
¿Quién se atreve a despertar al pintor de esta fundamental vigilia?
Silence, he is asleep.
An artist is defined by the creation of a language, and Arturo Rodríguez has created his own. In this book, as a group of poet friends, we have tried to illustrate a series of drawings that present two major challenges to writing; they are too intimate to be unraveled by a critic and too universal for us to appropriate them through literature.
Despite this, the authors’ empathy with the painter has made the work cohesive. Dissimilar in style and tone, we all coincide in essence. Or better said, the powerful and dark strength of the drawings impose a shared mood. Perhaps none of us would rise at three in the morning to face our demons with the alibi of facing a blank canvas. But we surely know what it takes–at that hour, without windows, without music.
There are artists that struggle to hallucinate in spite of reason. Arturo, on the other hand, is desperate to reason in the midst of the hallucination. In these drawings, that tension sometimes threatens to border on the abstract. Someone with less patience would have ended with a brutal and hermetic stain. Rooted in a tradition, knowing that the experiment is only worthy when it transcends tradition, Arturo persists in maintaining the narrative in every piece.
If the painting that illustrates the word tends towards clarity, the word that illustrates the painting tends towards confusion. I don’t think that any one of our texts accomplishes an explanation of these drawings. Probably not one among us even attempted such a risky mission. Tradition associates the coven to a celebration and the mask to deception. Here the coven is tragedy and the mask is visage.
Who would dare wake the painter from this fundamental vigil?
Andrés Reynaldo was born in Calabazar de Sagua, Cuba in 1953. He studied Philology at the University of Havana. He is member of the Mariel Generation, integrated by writers and artist that arrive to the US in 1980, during the Mariel boatlift crisis. Reynaldo has published the books of poetry Escrito a los 20 años (Havana, 1978), winner of the David Poetry Award from the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, and La canción de las esferas, awarded with the Letras de Oro literary prize from the University of Miami, and published by Editorial Salvat (Barcelona, 1987). Since 1980, he has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States, Latin America and Spain. For over 20 years he has regularly published his columns in the newspaper El Nuevo Herald, where he served as Chief Information Officer until 2012.
Lorenzo García Vega
Pio E. Serrano
Laura Y. Tartakoff
En The School of Night está la quintaesencia de Arturo Rodríguez.
Quién aún no conozca su universo,
tiene una puerta perfecta para entrar en él.
Los que lo seguimos hace tiempo
reencontramos un universo que nos es familiar y querido,
en el que se cruzan
Kafka y Beckett,
el film noir y el flamenco,
el jazz y Bacon,
Goya y Miles Davis,
Munch y Freud (los dos, Lucien y su abuelo),
porque en The School of Night está obviamente el pintor Arturo,
pero también el narrador, el fotografo,
el músico, el cineasta,
y, por supuesto, y es lo más importante, el Poeta.
In The School of Night is the quintessence of Arturo Rodríguez.
Those who still don’t know his universe
now have the perfect door to enter it.
Those of us who have followed him for a long time
reencounter a universe that is familiar and beloved,
Kafka and Beckett,
film noir and flamenco,
jazz and Bacon,
Goya and Miles Davis,
Munch and Freud (both Lucien and his grandfather),
because in The School of Night is obviously the painter Arturo,
but also the narrator, the photographer,
the musician, the filmmaker,
and, of course, and most importantly, the Poet.
Fernando Trueba is a Spanish book editor, screenwriter, film director and producer.
He has won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with Belle Époque in 1994, the Goya Award as Best Director three times and a Silver Bear for Year of Enligthment at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival. Miracle of Candeal won the Goya for Best Documentary, and Chico and Rita won the Goya for Best Feature Animation. In 1999, The Girl of Your Dreams was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival. In 2011 he won the Award of the Hungarian National Student Jury for Chico and Rita at the 7th Festival of European Animated Feature Films and TV Specials.
As a music producer he has won two Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy Awards.
© Drawings: Arturo Rodríguez
© Texts: Each author owns the copyright to their respective works
© Photography: Pedro Portal
© Island Project, New York, 2014
Translation/English: Francisco Larios (Lorenzo García Vega, José Kozer, Pío E. Serrano, Fernando Villaverde)
Translation/Spanish: Joaquín Badajoz (Bruce Weber, David Shapiro)
Proofreading: Julia Dantchev
Printer: Graphic Performance Corp., Miami, FL
Printed and bound in Thailand
Editorial Direction: Jorge Moya & Joaquín Badajoz
Design: Lorena Vázquez