Born 1975 in Miami, Florida; lives in Miami, Florida
Pointedly subverting the concept of an artist’s retrospective, Bert Rodriguez’s 2000 debut solo exhibition, Bert Rodriguez: A Pre-Career Retrospective at the Miami-Dade Community College’s Centre Gallery, offered childhood drawings, video, and objects in a portrait of a developing artist. In the tradition of Joseph Beuys, Rodriguez’s conceptual practice relies heavily on process and performance; here he questioned relationships between art, the artist, the viewer, and the market. Childhood Companion (1993), a toilet brush presented on a pedestal, is accompanied by a caption indicating: “This is Rodriguez’s first and only unadulterated ready-made object.” Referencing the subject of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Rodriguez pays homage to the revolutionary readymade that initiated appropriation art while highlighting the irony that Duchamp’s signed urinal is now a valuable object, coveted by collectors.
The artist performed A Bedtime Story Read by Bert Rodriguez during 2006 Art Basel Miami Beach. One evening, under a large advertising billboard announcing the event, he installed a simple lamp and armchair on the flatbed of a borrowed pickup and read his childhood book Five Chinese Brothers. Rodriguez recalls that his parents did not often read to him as a child, although he loved books. His narrative allowed children in his hometown to fall asleep to the whispers of his story, and acquired added poignancy in drawing attention to the importance of a childhood ritual not part of his own memory. Executed amid the opulence of Art Basel, Rodriguez’s bedtime tale became all the more compelling set against the art fair’s glitz and consumerism.
For his 2007 Advertising Works! Rodriguez orchestrated the design, installation, and sale of approximately thirty-five advertisements at Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami. By receiving compensation for these billboards— inviting the commercial world of advertising into the gallery—he drastically altered the dynamic of an exhibition space typically used to showcase artists. He signed these banners and sold them as his own art, making money on the front and back ends of the project and adding an additional layer of complication to the work.
Rodriguez strives to alleviate the concerns of Armory passersby for the 2008 Whitney Biennial, conducting free therapeutic sessions inside a large white cube installed in the middle of an ornate room and assigning “patients” artwork projects as remedies for their problems. A muffled version of these discussions audible outside his “office” suggests a ghostlike presence that reflects and intensifies the Armory’s haunting ambience. Operating largely outside traditional commercial art practices, and with shrewd yet playful wit, Rodriguez’s multifarious practice educates, amuses, perplexes, and enriches his audience while quietly commenting on the contemporary art world. STACEY GOERGEN