MoCA Museum of Contemporary Art

Rolando Peña

15 Sep - 13 Nov 2016

Rolando Peña "The Tower", New York City 1990
Black Gold
15 September – 13 November 2016

Curated by Jorge Luis Gutierrez

In this exhibition, Peña explores oil as a substance that has marked the destiny of modern and contemporary life. The way in which black gold has infiltrated every area of modern life is expressed not only through dance, theater, cinema, video, photography, installation, architecture, and design, but also through interaction with viewers.

In the 1968 Barsa Encyclopedia Britannica, art critic Stazis Gostautas wrote: “Rolando Peña (Venezuelan Artist), Founder and Director of the Foundation for the Totality (Group of Latin American art, based in NYC). A pioneer in Multimedia-Psychedelics, Happenings, Performance shows in Latin America.”

Peña began his artistic career in 1963 as a conceptual artist in media as diverse as performance and body actions, installations, printmaking, film and video, multimedia, and image technologies. He collaborated with prominent playwrights, intellectuals and curators such as Andy Warhol, José Ignacio Cabrujas, Allen Ginsberg, and Pierre Restany. In 1965, Peña staged with playwright Jose Ignacio Cabrujas in Venezuela the first multimedia shows in Latin America Testimony and Homage to Henry Miller.

From the 1980s to the present, Peña has been creating a monumental body of work based on crude oil, his critique of consumer society and especially oil exploitation which has become an icon of contemporary art. Peña has lived in New York City, Paris and Caracas, where he has exhibited this opus in solo and group exhibitions, performance experiences, installations, and as art in public places.

Peña has created multiple installations which have disrupted traditional concepts of what constitutes an exhibition space, among them: in 2002, Oil Spill (London Biennial), Il Barrile de Dio (Pinacoteca Amadeo Modigliani, Italy); in 2015 New Territories Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America (Museum of Art and Design, New York City), POP (Odalys Gallery Collective, Madrid), and Variation Paris-Media Art Fair (Digital Art Exhibition, Paris).

Some of Peña’s solo exhibitions include: I am Oil (Maison de L’Amerique Latine, Paris), The Standard Model of Matter: Tribute to Twentieth Century (Sofía Imber Contemporary Art Museum, Caracas), DARKENERGIE: Tribute to Albert Einstein (Centro Cultural of the Corp Group Foundation, Caracas), Black Mene (Arts Center, Maracaibo), (Andrés Bello Catholic University Venezuela American Center, Caracas)

Among his relevant art in public places installations/sculptures are: The Tower (Art on the Beach, New York City, 1980), Mene Devotional Object (Center for Inter-American Relations, New York, 1982), The Spiral (Museum of Fine Arts, Caracas, 1985), Mene Suspendu (Chapelle de la Salpetriere, Paris, 1987), Totem (Caracas Subway System, 1988), Tri-Totem (Olympic Park, Seoul, 1988), International Sculpture 90 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1990), Mene Square (Subway Plaza, Caracas, 2009), and The Higgs Barrel Mural, Metropolitan University, Caracas, 2012).

Peña’s awards and recognition include: The Guggenheim Foundation Scholarship, Make Green Oil, 2009; International Association of Art Critics’ Master of Contemporary Art, Venezuela, 2010; Association of Artists of Venezuela’s Armando Reveron Award, 2012; Special Tribute, 3rd International Art Biennial, Merida, Venezuela, 2014; Venezuela Architects Association’s “Master of Multimedia Art 2014′′; and the Andres Bello Medal from Andres Bello Catholic University for lifetime achievements in the arts in Venezuela and the Americas, 2016.

Peña’s artistic legacy in the arts emanates from his studied concern of social, political, and economic issues. One of most intensely conceptual artists to emerge from Latin America, Peña blends the studio, the lab, the environment and the street as one essential space in which to create one of contemporary art’s unique icons: the gold barrel. And indeed, the barrel becomes a symbol of the contradictions of our society namely consumption, environmental balance, technology, and basic human needs.

Rolando Peña’s Black Gold exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami, is an enduring testament to his career merging art, science, and technology, and an homage to the citizens of North Miami and South Florida.

Tags: Armando, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol