rolando
PETRÓLEO VERDE
GREEN OIL
PÉTROLE VERT
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Green oil
Science and Technology
Curator of contemporary art
Lorena González I
Regarding the exhibition Make Oil Green
Chronicles of defreezing

A couple of years ago, during a workshop I taught on portfolio presentation and artist's statements, I decided to invite a number of creators from different generations, have them show some of their work and interact with the students. One of these artists was Rolando Peña. I remember how, in the introduction to his work, he showed a picture of his first performance: A six year old boy with a daring smile and open shirt showing his muscles in the middle of a barren landscape. He then proceeded to show a second image from the day he made his first communion. With the same kind of smile he showed in the first picture, he commented: 'And that… was my second performance'. I could appreciate the peculiar way Peña's work relates directly to his surroundings, concentrated in diverse variables projected by his sensitivity, thought and wit toward the outside world, in gestures that breathe with the same wild bucolic spirit found in that first picture. I learned that day that, in order to talk about his work, one has to take into consideration two things: The artist himself and his context.

In his controversial exhibition Petróleo Verde (inaugurated in mid-July and running through the end of August) Peña gathers something from all these aforementioned elements, through a prolific and sustained capacity that never fails to denounce half -truths as truth, hegemonies and totalitarian thinking. He was the Guggenheim award recipient for Fine Arts in 2009. In the exhibition space, the multimedia installation, comprising multiplying mirrors, the natural change from solid to liquid of the watery structure, the sequence of images and the reconstruction in situ of the effects of global warming, is realized by the use of resources such as video art, performance, photography, net art, digital animation and art installation. On each facet the artist is trying to activate resonances in the spectator, sounds, effects and artifices through which a physical message becomes at times real.

Reality came itself as we confronted the interactive reflection directed from the big sculpture made of ice, melting through the exhibition in time, channeling the multiplicity of media used by the Black Prince like a grand performance, one that had all of us as participants. Unknowingly, we became part of an action and a project involving a group of workers: janitors, managers, the legal and visual arts departments, general services, security and so on. All of us, without exception, observing and measuring the daily activities of this living organism evolving in the exhibit room, unpredictable in its reactions, unassailable in its resonances. In the midst of it, we lived through leaks, little floods, condensed slabs of concrete, internal rain and chilly temperatures at the gallery offices.

Little by little we have stabilized the conditions necessary to ensure the proper way to handle more than a 1000 Kg of solid water and the ensuing process of melting. With this strategy, Peña made sure to activate the minds of the whole team of the Centro Cultural Chacao towards that place foreign to our tropical mindset, getting into the skin and conscience of each of us relating us to the very concrete damage to our ecosystem in a way that is filled with metaphors and conceptual evidence about global warming.

Right now, as I type this text, a powerful sound has taken my mind from the writing. The sound is caused by the ice cracking and falling down in the especially made container. Big chunks fall oblivious to the noise and splashing ice water over the white vinyl of the gallery floor. Suddenly all is calm, silence returns. However, the unpredictable nature of ice keeps us in constant anticipation, bewildered to the poetic outrages of this small yet strongly eloquent representation named Petróleo Verde. We hope it will instigate powerful reflection, one that is willing to participate in this issue consuming the durability of our civilization.

Caracas 2010