2020 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Visual Arts
Accompanied with a book and a dance performance, Rodrigo de Toledo puts on an exhibit that takes ancient and modern symbols and re-invents them into his own context. The artist started this project in 2005 when his interest in iconography began. Through immersive research, Rodrigo invents his own personal mythology that follows the interconnected stories of his invented symbols. He converted this mythology into a visual tale that looks as if it was ripped straight from a monk’s manuscript. His work utilizes cosmo-mythological and archetypal diagrams to clearly divulge the inner workings of his mythology. This body of work was influenced by two artist residencies in medieval Italian towns, 2017.
This exhibit has a partnering book, The Myth of the Incomplete Self. At the opening, The Incomplete Ritual was a dance interpretation of the search for Self sublimation, based on the artwork in display, performed by Joanie Garcia, Hilary Giovale, Dapper Dre, Jordan Pletzer, and Ingrid French. This exhibit was shown at the Coconino Center for the Arts in the Jewel Gallery from January 15th to February 9th of this year. The exhibition is scheduled to travel this year, starting with the Mesa Museum of Contemporary Arts, from April to August 2020.
I make symbols, and I connect them. I started doing this spontaneously in 2005, as a form of understanding myself and the world. At the time, I was not aware that it was the beginning of a potentially lifelong art project, which I later came to view as a spiritual process. This practice became increasingly structured when I started to put together what I call a personal mythology that contains interconnected archetypes and some of their background stories. In 2010, I formalized this concept as a series of five paintings entitled Inner Mythological Realms, which were published in my illustrated fiction Chronicles of Entanglement—The Broken Mandala Whispers. From 2016 to 2018 the mythology was expanded with a new body of work, entitled The Myth of the Incomplete Self.
I research ancient mythologies and their icons, allowing myself to be influenced by instinctive attraction to imagery—loosely navigating what psychologist Carl Jung called the collective unconscious. It takes me a while to create and collect a set of symbols, characters and environments, which I draw with a surrealist stream-of-consciousness spontaneity. I then refine their appearance, and make them fit visually, coherently, and conceptually into the existing mythology and iconography. This practice could be described as a psycho-archeological search, with a resulting fictional world design.
My medium exploration focuses on adapting and showing this mythology through as many media as possible, such as graphic novels, paintings, short animated films, digital 3D environments, prints, installations, and performance. A critical part of this exploration is the research of visual language and visual style, which is influenced by the design and techniques found in depictions of ancient religious archetypes, as well as cartoons and comics characters.
As an artist and graphic designer, I am instinctively attracted to visual systems. The application of symbols in my compositions follows an invented visual grammar, a combination of hieroglyphic language and mysterious alchemical schemas. I employ a primitive pop-surreal graphic style, which helps me explore questions of identity and spirituality, as well as the media’s effect on personal memory and fantasy.