The work was impressive when you walked in, especially with the dark room being illuminated only by the colored background and bits of white from the backlight. Even the reflection on the wood floor seemed to be another piece of the artwork. The blank spots were from the blocks the artist had given out the previous few days.
This week’s galleries were full of an incredible amount of amazing work, but from the minute I walked into the Merlino gallery, I knew I wanted to talk to the artist about it. The walls were lit up with a large deep pink screen and bits of color in each block were illuminated by black lights on the walls. Further inspecting the work, one can see strings peeking out from many layers of paint and paper. Even the blocks painted black had small bits of glow coming from inside of them.
Each block had its own layers of darkness and light, intermingling to create a seemingly random, yet somehow incredibly coherent overall piece
After reading the description of the work and talking to Rivera himself, I realized the message beneath the layers of paint and string; light shines even through darkness. The work was even called “Post Tenebras Lux”, after darkness, light. Rivera said that became a huge idea to him, even the use of black light came from this theme as the dark bulbs created such a vibrant, bright light. He said he could change the background lighting as well, creating an entirely different feel for the work despite the content remaining the same.
He further described the meaning of the work as our need to rip away from the ideas we have been taught since birth to discover new truths on our own. Inspiration for the work came from an old life drawing professor of Rivera’s, who had said he did not like conceptual art and did not think of it as a true art form. Rivera said this statement had made him somewhat mad, and so the idea of ripping away from the traditional became the base concept of the work. He even mentioned using art history books in some of the blocks to further the idea of breaking through the old to create something new.
Some of the brighter blocks were covered with text pages, even art books. Up close, the darkness of the words was visible, but from further away the text disappeared into the bright white squares.
He seemed to love doing new things; not only did he enjoy painting, sculpting, and photography, he also liked taking things apart and creating new things out of preexisting objects. Perhaps this is where the collaged block idea came from: they included layers of paint, glue, string collage, and plaster and when finished, the string would be pulled out to expose the layers inside. He said it was exciting and almost therapeutic ripping the blocks apart because you never truly know how it will turn out, much like when new ideas and thought processes are introduced to society. He encouraged us all to be critical about things; he even included in his work an article about google making us stupid because we use what we need and do not ask questions. He says we must question things : why things are where they are, why someone created a thing, why we think the way we do. However, he said people are getting bored with being comfortable and are now more willing to discover and think critically, so there is hope for a less blissfully ignorant future.
Rivera in the gallery courtyard showing off one of the hundreds of individual blocks that made up his work. With so many to create for the work, he ended up enlisting the help of friends and family to create the blocks.
Although he loved the piece he had created, Rivera seemed ultimately happy to be finishing the work and was even giving away blocks as the exhibition went on. He said giving it away was a great way to finalize the work in his mind and move on to a new project. He even mentioned a new project he was ready to start with large panels, thoroughly moving away from the small blocks of “Post Tenebras Lux”