Sometimes art is easy to figure out — the artist is commenting on a sociopolitical issue through wacky performance art, or perhaps he or she is just representing nature through a painting.
Other times, an artwork is so mysteriously obtuse that if you search for a concept or a specific meaning, you'll just feel like you're banging your head against the wall. It is useless. The search is tiring. And in that exact moment, when it all seems impossible, you take another look at the artwork and let it mesmerize you.
This is a technique I suggest you try with Mexico City-born, Lisbon-based Rodrigo Hernández's solo exhibition, "A Complete Unknown," at Midway Contemporary Art in Minneapolis through March 30. This show is about experience, a cruise into shapes, forms, space and nothingness all at once.
The sparsely curated exhibition is made up of four hybrid painting-sculptures built from papier-mâché. Each piece is untitled. Each has its own wall in this square-shaped, brightly lit, white-walled gallery. I stood in the exact middle of the room, as if I were in the center of a clock, looking at the sculptures at 12, 3, 6 and 9.
They are all a grayish tone, three-dimensional and abstract. As I looked harder, I discovered various shapes, as one does when looking at clouds in the sky. The scroll of a violin. A small hill. A starkly modernist home overlooking it. Each mysterious piece has a gentle presence.
"I feel like through these processes I'm peeling off slices of the drawing and seeing what it really is, what it is made of," said Hernández, when we corresponded by e-mail. "It's really all about making the body of the drawing 'stand up,' all about the building up of a sculpture starting really from nothing, flat gray scatteredness."
All of the artist's work has a dreaminess to it. His 2018 exhibition at Pivo in Sao Paulo, Brazil, titled "The Real World Does Not Take Flight," offered a visually hypnotic layout with similar three-dimensional sculpture-drawings, but they were colorful, filled with abstract forms.
In 2016 he did a series of paintings, "Selva," based on the dreams of a curator named Rob about a series of murals that Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias made in 1939 in San Francisco. While these works were more object-oriented and less abstract — such as "Fish Dancing on Top of a Building" — they, too, shared a similar meditative quality with a Dada-ist edge, asking you to let them steal away your thinking mind, and send you into a trance.