Selected by Edgar Calel
Gabriel lives in Guatemala City and is anarchitect and artist, a teacher, and now he has also become involved in curating. So there is a blend of different types of information that he manages. We met in 2008, when we were showing work in an exhibition that was organised for emerging artists. He showed a work that was a text on a ceiling that read: ‘The sky is yours’. This was the beginning of our dialogue, where we asked: What is the sky? Is it an invention, an abstraction and a promise too?
Currently Gabriel is working on a series of drawings focusing on geometry and architecture that he began developing during a residency at the Delfina Foundation in London last year. The drawings are based on the building where these works will be exhibited, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Panama, in 2024. They are drawings related to a sacred geometry and to angles that allow certain stimuli to be generated. I find this work very interesting, alongside his other works, which have more to do with the essence of natural pigments.
There is a pigment called indigo. The function of this colour within contexts such as the Indigenous peoples of Guatemala is related to healing – curing headaches, for example: you take the colour and rub it on your forehead. This relieves stress and internal pains. However, due to colonial processes, indigo lost its essence and is now just a pigment, without the healing function. The dialogue that I engaged in with Gabriel based on these works was about how the person can be the medium, and the colour the artist. It is not the artist who creates; it is the colour.
What other processes can we investigate that involve the material, the medium and the way they collaborate in the making of a work of art? Let’s look at Gabriel’s work with a tree called palo de Campeche. The palo de Campeche has an intense colour. Gabriel places its bark on a linen cloth treated with chlorine, and in addition to generating a weight and presence, the bark leaves its colour on the cloth. The cloth enables two types of intervention, one is the colour left behind and the other is the whitening of that colour. So there is a duality of simultaneous creative processes, processes that have an impact as much on the canvas itself as on people’s perceptions: at the very moment the idea goes, it’s already coming back.
In terms of curating, Gabriel has two parallel projects: one to exhibit his work in Panama and the other to curate something there too. So sometimes we end up discussing how, through this process of curating, an artist’s works are configured alongside the curator’s own research. We also found ourselves, a few days ago, talking about a project called Un viaje a Marte (A voyage to Mars). He told me that he had travelled to Mars by taking a substance. The idea behind this trip was to get to Mars before Elon Musk. He went on to tell me that his idea for this project was to show it as a film, a video art piece, like a science fiction.
So Gabriel’s works are very dynamic and diverse. And this helps me think of the diversity of needs that we have as creators. Some- times there is a personal message. Sometimes there is a message tied to the community and sometimes there is a message that is connected to the situation and context in which we live.
Gabriel Rodríguez Pellecer is an artist, curator and educator based in Guatemala City. He trained as an architect at Universidad Rafael Landívar, Guatemala City. Later this year, MAC Panamá will host Rodríguez Pellecer’s first institutional exhibition.
Edgar Calel is a Maya Kaqchikel artist based in Guatemala, whose art explores Indigenous experience through installations and other works that reference cosmology, spiritual traditions and ceremonies
Translated from the Spanish by ArtReview