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Rodrigo Valenzuela at Luis de Jesus
January 8, 2022 - February 19, 2022
In Work for a Post Worker’s World, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s grayscale photographs feel like ominous apocalyptic factory scenes — pictures of invented machinery that, devoid of people, imply a future where the robots have taken over. A closer look, however, reveals familiar materials arranged in haphazard but careful compositions.
The machinery is in fact crafted with objects that Valenzuela finds on the streets of LA — he transforms, for instance, a bucket, the bottom of an office chair, a styrofoam package for a speaker, and a chop-saw blade into some kind of imposing sci-fi torture device. City detritus becomes the speculative ephemera of ruin. In one series, titled Weapons, Valenzuela’s invented sculptural bots are screen printed onto panels which have been wallpapered with worker time cards, the words “strike” and “union” stamped across them like a kind of textual underpainting.
While Valenzuela’s photographs engage in the political content of workers’ rights, labor unions, and capitalist systems (largely based on his own childhood experiences growing up under Pinochet’s Chilean dictatorship), he leaves his pictures open-ended and non-didactic — the viewer is given space to piece together their own invented narrative of the scenes.
Did the workers revolt? Did they go on strike? Were they eradicated somehow? Are we seeing some kind of aftermath of protest? All of the works are photographed from a frontal perspective in spaces with limited depths of field, allowing the compositions to feel like psychological projections — spaces meant to elicit thought experiments more than document any specific narrative.
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Photo: Rodrigo Valenzuela, Afterwork #2, 2021. Silver gelatin print, 40 x 32. Image courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.