Convictions

In the town where my grandfather lived, there was no option of higher education beyond the third grade; however, his adoptive father supported him to study drawing and painting, which he continued to practice most of his life. I grew up closely observing his works, mostly portraits and replicas of religious subjects. He was a primary influence, and without a doubt, a pivotal component to my interest in the arts.

 

However, my grandfather, like so many artists, did not make a living from his creative practice. For over a decade, he was a taxi driver in the town of Villa de la Paz, SLP, Mexico, since the late 1920's. He offered a transportation service between his small mining town and the neighboring city, Matehuala. When the Cristero War began (the religious persecution, which was intended to eliminate the Catholic faith in Mexico and had an estimated total of 250,000 deaths, among civilians, military and Cristeros), he decided to risk his life using his taxi, in order to transport priests, free of charge, to underground locations, so that they could continue to administer the sacraments and officiated masses.

Frequently, my work relates to my childhood in Mexico and its history, comparing and contrasting religion and art practices. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 home confinement order, museums, galleries, and art institutions closed indefinitely. Artists, like myself, were prevented from displaying our work to the public through these traditional spaces. For this reason, I decided to start a project using transport platforms, known as shared rides, in the city of Chicago. From the memory of my grandfather and the need to have a job that offered me financial remuneration, I began this work titled Convictions.

 

With more than 2,000 people and in approximately 950 trips during the last year, I have had the opportunity to carry out a performance. Sparked by the curiosity and concern of my passenger-audience, I explain the story of my grandfather and how his work encouraged me to create the performance in which they are then involved. The clothing that I use refers directly to the clothes that my grandfather wore. In the same way, I sculpted a partial portrait of my grandfather in porcelain, which I can wear over my ears and over my regulatory mask to protect myself from COVID-19 (a disease I contracted during this period on one of those trips). I risk my life transporting passengers and now share my beliefs while mobilizing these unassuming art viewers.

 

Thus, the vehicle becomes at once a transitory utilitarian sculpture, my workspace, and an intimate auditorium for up to five people. It is an interactive performance, which lasts about 30 hours a week. There, the passenger-spectators also find the hidden visual and sound works placed in the vehicle, which activate their curiosity and questions. I present art books as gifts. I talk to them about artists, exhibitions, institutions. I invite them to visit museums in the future (when the spaces are safely reactivated), especially the museum where I am part of the advisory board, in the city of Chicago. I generate a first-hand connection between my passengers and the works that are in the vehicle, some of which have been exhibited in renowned national and international museums. I also play musical compositions from colleagues with whom I have shared art residencies or with whom I have collaborated.

 

From passenger to passenger, I generate thoughts, drawings, writings of my work, and reflections and modifications to the Convictions project itself. My belief in art exerts the need to share it in the same way that my grandfather facilitated and shared his devotion, putting his life in danger, going from one place to another.

 

 

Rodrigo Lara

​© 2021 by Rodrigo Lara Zendejas

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