Technology, Science, and Paint in Santiago Rueda’s ColorLab Series.
Rosa JH Berland, Art Historian, NYC
Artist and haute couture photographer Santiago Rueda has a polished way of drawing his viewer into a glossily imagined space, a fantasy. Immensely popular, Rueda’s photographs are an impeccably well presented body of work with a distinctive opulent aesthetic, and considerable erotic appeal: some are experimental, others more specifically industry standard. The popularity of Rueda’s portraits of extraordinary beauty and sex appeal remains…hardly mysterious. No age is immune to suggestive libidinous artwork, whatever the culture or time period.
Yet, Rueda makes work as well that might seem at first more prosaic or, at least in comparison, a little bloodless, but in fact is as voluptuous as any of the models. This is the sculptural series ColorLab; made with CAD software, the patterns are digitally printed on metal and wood. The work has Rueda’s imprint, luminosity and a pared down geometric minimalism. Intricacy is met with vibrant color. And this is where the sensuality lies.
My interest is the series Color Labs was immediate, and palpable. A sensuality exists in these works that is less apparent in more explicit work. By this, I mean the presence of tactility, an indulgence in color and radiating patterns, geometric shapes, engender a geometric richness so much like the Orphism of Robert and Sonia Delauney. A certain rhythmic shaping preoccupies. It is the artist’s injection of the imaginary embodied in lush pigment and line.
My lifelong fascination with artwork that describes an artist’s obsession in painterly terms began with my first visit to Albright Knox with my mother, a very young painter. Delighted to be there and see so much, she seemed to spread her wings and fly through the galleries. I was mesmerized by expanses of color, and the predominance of shapes. One painting gave such an impression of endless aquatic depth that I had the sensation of falling into its blue. In awe of the success of beautiful abstraction, I have continued to have a taste for banded color of lines, intricacy that seems effortless and a sense of craft. Though at the AKG one can see the grain of the canvases and an encaustic-like texture in the Delaunays, when I saw Rueda’s ColorLab works, I was reminded of the Delaunays. There is a shared sensibility that evokes sound, rhythm and the vocabulary of music. Rueda’s design functions as an orchestration of line forming a seamless parade of moving color. I mention as well the Delaunays’ interests in the power of color, no longer beholden to figuration, they were inspired by the 19th century dye chemist Eugène Chevreul, and in turn to liberating paint from prescribed form to explore the purely expressive power of color and shapes. Similarly, Rueda also takes inspiration from the digital world and its constructs and patterns and uses it to produce color mapped works that have a haptic beauty.