Rodrigo Valenzuela’s photographs depict immersive whitewashed tableaus that he constructs from commonly cast-off items. These assemblages are evocative of the kind of transitional spaces in modern living associated with both building construction and urban decline.
These built environments, already a simulacrum of reality, are further complicated by his technique of using his own photographic work as backdrops against which additional installations are seamlessly built and rephotographed. In this way a complex sense of spatial displacement is created.
The materials and labor involved in these sculptural works harken back to the construction work that the artist initially performed as a recent US immigrant while also attending art school and navigating the process to become a US resident. In his series Barricades the work alludes to the structures erected by both opressors and the oppressed amidst acts of civil disobedience.
Taken as a whole his work makes poetic use of the liminal spaces that modern living so often places us within, locations that are always on the threshold of being built or sliding into decline. Valenzuela speaks of travelling across the US by car and paying witness to the parts of the landcape that we look away from, the discarded parts of the American Dream that line the roadside mile after mile.
In this sense, while his methods may differ, his aim is an heir to traditions like the Photo League that sought to use the camera to bring focus to parts of contemporary life and social issues that we might otherwise choose to disregard. These works have a flinty discipline in their execution and feel equally connected to the early history of photography and contemporary art, as well as the politics of our day.