Crystal Bridges recently acquired a work by Los Angeles-based painter Sandy Rodriguez titled De las Señales y Pronósticos and I.C.E. Raids de Califas, created in 2018. The artwork depicts a map of California that appears as if it were pulled from the days of European colonization, however, closer looking reveals more contemporary additions, such as helicopters and speed boats.
In fact, the visual language of Rodriguez’s map was borrowed from the sixteenth-century Florentine Codex, a book created to help Spanish colonists destabilize the Aztecs. From that starting point, the artist goes on to draw connections between colonial invasions and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids in California. On the right side of the work, boxes that appear similar to those found in comic books depict scenes of ICE agents detaining protesters.
The work is painted on handmade Amate paper, a special bark paper that is sacred within some Indigenous communities. It was used historically to create codices, such as the one Rodriguez references here, and was outlawed by the Spanish during their conquest of the Americas. The colors she uses are hand-processed and made from native plants, ochres, and other earth pigments. More on Rodriguez’s making process can be found here.
The work is part of a larger series called the Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón, a reference to the artist’s paternal and maternal surnames coupled with the large-scale drawings blending pre-Hispanic and European mapping techniques. The series features similar depictions of bioregional maps and botanical drawings, thematically connecting historical moments to the present.
This work is currently on view in the Contemporary Art Gallery at Crystal Bridges in a section titled Marking Land that considers new ways of thinking about landscape. The works in this section consider histories, borders, and how artists can expand our understanding and relationship to the land around us.
Sandy Rodriguez is an artist based in Los Angeles. Drawing on her Mexican heritage and her proximity to the US-Mexico border, much of her work identifies parallels between deep-rooted histories and current events. Flexing chronology and employing specific aspects of tradition, Rodriguez’s recent work feels simultaneously in step with centuries-old map making techniques and acutely on the pulse of contemporary conflict. Her resulting practice is a time-bending study on the enduring impact of colonialism in this country. In her multi-year Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón project, Rodriguez creates paintings and maps rendered using materials and techniques that brilliantly marry their method of creation with their powerful commentary.
Learn more about Sandy Rodriguez’s practice here.