The Language of Things: Roberto Romero-Molina
San Diego Art Institute, Balboa Park
On View Through March 17, 2018
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Article by Cathy Breslaw
When you arrive in the gallery spaces of the San Diego Art Institute you may ask yourself the question “Where’s the art?” There is little hanging on the walls because the artist wants you to listen, hear and interact with ‘sound’. Originally a painter, artist Roberto Romero-Molina is a visual and sound artist working on both sides of the US-Mexico border. His exhibition The Language of Things includes 6 installations strategically placed throughout the expansive space of the gallery. All but two of the installations include sound and visitors can hear them all simultaneously from various points within the space. At first, this can be a little disorienting but given time to acclimate to these unusual surroundings, there is a feeling that it all co-exists nicely together.
For Romero-Molina’s art pieces to work their magic, we are required to slow down, be present in the moment and occasionally close our eyes to receive the full value of these art pieces. Open Field (2017) is an interactive piece which includes a black and white video screen (oscilloscope) and parabolic antenna that when moving, jumping, stomping, singing, clapping or making utterances into the microphones, the visual display oscillates in kind. Picking up the sounds of our movements, we are provided a visual description of the sounds we are creating. Quartet is a set of four screens, each with a formal geometric shape in either red, blue, yellow or green, activated by thin white lines and tiny specs that are in motion, each vibrating within the rectangular screens. Reminiscent of minimal hard edge painting, each of these colorful works provide us with distinctive sound patterns in motion, along with the shapes. System #32 is a black steel tree-like structure with several branches, each holding its own speaker from which we hear bird sounds produced with an electronic synthesizer. Each audio player has a variety of sounds and cycles through periods of both vocalizations and silence. As you walk in and around each branch, visitors hear varying bird sounds.
Serendibite is an installation that exists within a temporary structure of “walls” made from commercial insulation and black metal frames, all guiding the visitor into a more private space of sound. There are three benches for sitting and contemplation, and for listening and ‘feeling’ while we let the sound wash over us. System 49 is a series of eight individual black and white video screens on stands, set in a circular pattern at eye level. All the screens have the same location – a room with several small bright windows, but with a different ‘scene’ in each. Two human figures (one male and one female) wrapped in clear plastic appear in some, while in others, there is a figure covered in plastic on the floor, still or breathing. There is no sound for this installation as the imagery draws us into questioning the content of each screen. The last installation is Video Painting, a video screen where we spend two minutes watching an image emerge from shapes and shadows as the movements go in and out of haziness and sharpness and variations in color. Romero-Molina wants us to meet him halfway, inviting us into his world of sound and communications, calling our attention to a mostly visceral experience of what art can be.
Romero-Molina is a visual and sound artist working on both sides of the US-Mexico border. He produces projects and works which aim at exploring the relationships between experience and representation, the visible and the invisible, occurrence and memory, between the phenomenal and the noumenal. Investigating the notion that our perception and analysis of reality is merely a fragment of the totality of the non-verbal experience (non-knowledge, consciousness). Romero-Molina aims at creating visual aphorisms, poetical materializations and perceptive games as interventions in the everyday life that lead us to reflect, question and reevaluate our present and everything which is contained in it.