Thursday, October 2, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Jorge Rojas

This mixed media artist seeks community members to help create My space: Bronx in 12 hours

From noon to midnight Saturday, October 4, community members of all ages are invited to join mixed media artist Jorge Rojas for a one-day marathon to create a collaborative painting inside a Mott Haven bedroom. And, the entire art process will be aired online in real time.
That day participants in My space: Bronx will get the opportunity to work in community, get their clothes dirty and create a masterpiece at the Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, an artist-run space located in the bedroom of Blanka Amezkua. Their work will be captured on video and transmitted live online through
Rojas' project incorporates painting and new media, exploring "how technology is changing the way we communicate; how we view and interact with art and each other; and the importance of process in art and our daily lives," states Amezkua of the Bedroom Project, which offers contemporary artists a space to showcase their work in a nontraditional art venue.
Bronx Latino spoke with Rojas about his Latino heritage, his art background as well as his upcoming My space: Bronx event and why the community and technology play such an important role in creating his art.

BL: Hi, please tell me a little about you.

JR: I was born in Morelos, Mexico in 1968 and have lived in New York City for about 10 years. I’m currently living in Bushwick, Brooklyn and have worked out of my studio in Williamsburg for the last four years. I also teach mural painting and other art-related workshops to kids through the Brooklyn Arts Council.

BL: How did you discover your art? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Who were/are your influences as an artist?
JR: I’m still discovering my art. I began drawing when I was about six but didn’t actually commit to being an artist until I was out of art school. Art is the only career choice that I think will stimulate and challenge me creatively and intellectually for the rest of my life. My artistic influences are too wide and numerous to list here, but Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys, Felix Gonzales- Torres and Nam June Paik are some of my biggest influences.

BL: Do you think your Mexican/Latino heritage has any influence in your art? Why or why not?
JR: Yes and No. Yes, because being Mexican and having lived in Mexico for much of my life; my Latino heritage is naturally and deeply embedded in who I am. At the same time, I don’t think of myself as a 'Mexican artist.' I just try to make the best work I can and hope it resonates on a universal level.

BL: I understand that in My space: Bronx, you invite the public to take part in a collaborative painting which will encompass all of the surface area of the Blue Bedroom. Do you have an idea of what the painting will be as far as a theme or is that something you and the public come up with at the space?
JR: I have no idea what we will come up with, and this is intentional. The process is what really matters here. Telling people what to paint would completely change the atmosphere of the project and limit the possibilities of the outcome. Spontaneity and indeterminacy are key elements to the success of this project.

BL: Why did you decide to do this project in the Bronx, especially in a bedroom? What role does the actual space play in your project? And, why did you decide to do this marathon project with the theme My space: Bronx?
JR: When Blanka Amezkua invited me to be one of the artists at the BBBP, I had already been planning this project for about eight months. Blanka’s bedroom is perfect for this project. Since it’s a bedroom, it automatically places both the audience and the artwork outside of its normal context. The Blue Bedroom offers an ideal environment for visitors to feel more relaxed and at home, and therefore more open to participating. The Bronx offers a strong sense of community, which is also an important part of the project.

BL: Your project incorporates painting and new media such as video and web casting. Please explain why you decided to incorporate the new media aspect into this project and what role technology plays in your art.
JR: One of the issues I’m exploring is how technology is changing the way we communicate. By placing technological interactivity right next to an environment where human interactivity is encouraged, I hope to shed some light on the differences and limitations of each one. Modern advances in communication tools such as computers, email, text messaging and PDAs offer us instant access and communication. But as we become more and more dependent on these technologies, it’s important to consider if the adoption of these same technologies is simultaneously alienating us from each other. The paradox is that technology can help us to understand this phenomenon and yet it is also partly responsible for it.

BL: Why is transmitting the process online at part of the process? Will the online audience be able to be part of the process? What role will they play?
JR: BlogTV is interesting to me because it allows for extremely democratic communication. Anyone from anywhere who is watching on BlogTV can chime in live during the event and offer their opinion about the project. This is refreshing to me because it helps eliminate some of the exclusivity often associated with gallery and museum openings. Recently I did My space in Mexico and online viewers were asking us to paint their names or other symbols on the paintings because they felt part of the process and wanted to be included.

BL: What is the reason you decided to do this project as a marathon, one-day event? Why is this an important part of the process?
JR: I find that when time is a factor in any given project, and especially when time is limited; people tend to take that time more into consideration and are usually more present, more aware of the process at hand. I think that by limiting the amount of time, people will take more ownership in the process and that the intensity of their participation will increase.

BL: Is My space: Bronx part of a bigger project? Is this a project you do or will do in other spaces in other places?
JR: My space: Bronx is the third installment of a series of interactive pieces I call “Live Gestures.” For the first My space, this summer, I lived for seven days in the storefront window of an ex-monastery turned museum called Ex Convento del Carmen in Guadalajara, Mexico. The second one was at Five Myles Gallery in Brooklyn as part of a political show. Each time I do My space, it takes on a life of its own. Each time I learn different things. I plan to continue doing it in as many spaces as possible.

BL: What should people coming to your event expect to do? I know they should come with clothes they don't mind getting painted. What do you hope participants get out of the process?
JR: People should expect to paint, interact and have fun. I hope that this project encourages people to think about the importance of process and human interaction in our daily lives. That life itself can be an art form. By examining the relationships between artist, viewer, and artwork in different environments, we can better understand how we communicate, how we perceive one another, and why we adopt and play out certain roles within our societies.

BL: Please tell me anything else that I didn't ask that you want to share.
JR: Part of the point of this project is to try and blur the line that normally exists between observer and art and to show that there is art in the process. And, also that ‘reciprocity’ is a concept we don’t see enough of in art.

Those who want to know more about Rojas and his work can check out his website at

To take part in Saturday's My space: Bronx, go to Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, 309 Alexander Ave. Apt. 3A. For more information about Blue Bedroom, visit -- Clarisel Gonzalez

(photos courtesy of Jorge Rojas)

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