He is one of the most original artists on the international scene. A unique, original, distinctive style. In his works we find glamor and spirituality, sensuality and philosophy. We are talking about the American artist Terry Rodgers on show in London at Jerome Zodo Gallery with the exhibition You Were Never Really There. I have the honor to know Terry personally so I took the opportunity to meet him and ask some questions.
You Were Never Really There is your first solo show in the United Kingdom. How did you prepare for this event and what works did you decide to show?
For this show, I was particularly focused on stasis. That caught moment in an instance of silence. The bait of excitement and desire is juxtaposed against the uncertainty and boredom that seems so present in our time. There is a great push and pull, the lure and the repulsion, the fiction and the real, the known and the unknown. This is what I was thinking. And I wanted to create works that looked at this stasis solo, up close, in groups compressed and cinematically.
"Nothing succeeds like excess," said Oscar Wilde. Your works are a celebration of excess: on the one hand your “excess”, with your extraordinary virtuosity, on the other hand the one depicted in your works. What meaning do you give to the word excess?
I prefer to think in terms of complexity. These paintings are a compression of experiences, uncertainties, influences, commercial imagery, gestures, desires and vectors representing the complexity of interactions. “Excess” often suggests “doing” something in excess, an action judged negatively. I want to suggest that we are surrounded by an excess or super-abundance of influences and are perhaps isolated or lonely in the midst of this very complicated world. Every generation invents its own fantasy culture.
One of the main themes of your research, if I'm right, is the disconnection between body and mind in a world that thanks to social networks is instead increasingly connected. More and more often, in the contemporary world, we apply defense mechanisms: we do not fully experience feelings not to suffer, to protect ourselves from failures, disappointments, injuries. In other words we live without transport, motivation. In your artistic practice what does "disconnection" mean?
For me, disconnection suggests that there is actually a desire for connection, a search for relating. And the disconnect is the failure to find a satisfying relatedness. There are many ways that we seem available to each other – parties, social media, etc. – but it never seems easy. And I expect that it has always been like this. I don’t see it as the result of the way the world is today. People endured failed marriages for centuries. Today many end in divorce. Both are a measure of the difficulty.
Your paintings are in most cases large and with a decidedly cinematic cut. We live in a historical moment in which there is a problem of social visibility in a world that is getting bigger and bigger, and in which we feel threatened by a sort of social anonymity. Visibility is "widened" by the media and social networks where the private becomes accessible to all, therefore visible, public. We feel the need to share photos or private information that others are called to confirm with a "like" still giving us a social meaning or a value. Is there a bit of this "exhibitionism" even in your works?
These paintings display a tension between a myriad of desires, suggestions and pressures. I suspect that the threat of social anonymity has been with us from time immemorial. To be ostracized from your tribe or clan was the kiss of death. Inclusion is a type of self-affirmation. No longer living in tiny rural communities, finding our tribe and staying included in it is way more complicated. And self-expression is always a threat to inclusion or community. So the exhibitionism we see is just an expression of need.
Returning to your artistic practice, how do you create your works?
I spend a lot of time photographing models who I think might be able to express some aspect of an inner life. I work with them individually and then later I start to play with how some images can work with others to reveal some of the energy currents in our worlds.
Do you have other upcoming projects in which we can see your works?
My current show in London will be on view at the Jerome Zodo Gallery until November 30. I will have work in a group exhibition at the Rijksmuseum Twente January to November, 2019. I will also participte in a group show in Germany yet to be announced. And I’m working on an upcoming Paris gallery show yet to be announced.