Tra Publishing talks with Cristina Lei Rodriguez, a Miami-based sculptor, whose work is the subject of Act Natural: Retrospective of Work 2003-2018. We discuss her inspiration and her process.
The volume, a Collector's Edition, comprehensively documents Rodriguez’s sculptural landscapes and photographs for the first time. The book’s lush design reflects the exuberant, thought-provoking spirit of the artist’s work. Act Natural includes essays by Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Shane Aslan Selzer, José Carlos Diaz, and Christian Larsen. Each volume comes comes encased in a one-of-a-kind sculptural slipcase individually made by the artist.
Rodriguez is a Miami-based sculptor whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including shows at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Serpentine Gallery, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Team Gallery, and Deitch Projects. In Miami, Rodriguez’s work is part of the permanent collections of PAMM, de la Cruz Collection, The Bass, and the Rubell Family Collection.
What prompted you to do this book?
Making this book is making art in a new form with a new audience. It's an opportunity to contextualize my work and discuss in further depth the core ideas behind my work.
The unique opportunity to work with Tra Publishing also prompted me to produce a book project. They approach bookmaking as an art form, and we have a creative connection that comes from their deep understanding of my work and practice.
Over the years, I have amassed hundreds of photographs documenting and exploring the sculptural landscapes that I have created. Since 2009, I also have been building an archive of photographs produced by scanning my sculpture materials to create images. Many of these images have never been shown. With this book I can weave it all together.
The essays and interviews are the result of ongoing conversations I have had about my work with artists and curators. Their contributions to the book give depth to the story I wanted to tell.
Can you describe the cover and tell us a little more about what’s inside?
Each book will have a unique sculpture that encases it. The sculptures will be made of industrial materials such as plastic, epoxy, and grout, mixed with metallic pigments and colorful dyes to create my hybrid gems. The outside shape of the sculpture will be irregular and textured, like a naturally formed mineral or baroque pearl that has been polished and refined. In places, the sculptures will be translucent so that the book cover can peek through from within.
What inspires your work?
For as long as I can remember, I have been motivated to create art that captures a moment, portrays a feeling or considers an idea that is specific to today, to my now. This book is a work of art for me, and has been an opportunity to contextualize my work and ideas in a new form that I hope opens new possibilities for reflection on this complex world we live in.
Your work defies easy categorization. How do you describe it?
I create artificial hybrids, made by hand in my studio, comprised of mostly industrial materials such as plastic, epoxy, plaster, and concrete that become built up and layered to resemble their natural counterpart.
My work is a meditation on the process of life present in nature, depicted with today’s materials to link the works specifically to the moment we live in.
Tell us a little more about your studio. Where is it and what does it look like?
Living in Miami, I have an outdoor studio so that I can work with all of the materials that require ventilation. It is one of the benefits of being an artist in South Florida that I can be outside year round. It is in a large white canopy/tent situated in the garden behind my house, underneath a large mango tree and an avocado tree. It is a constant inspiration to me to be surrounded by a living natural environment.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
My intention is to create an art experience for the reader that can be touched through the handmade sculpture/case and through the paper and materials of the book itself. I want the reader to be able to come back to the book again and again, each time discovering something they hadn’t previously noticed or thought about.