Exhibition: Shellyne Rodriguez’s “Third World Mixtapes”

Shellyne Rodriguez’s “Third World Mixtapes: The Infrastructure of Feeling” is on view until April 22, 2023, at PPOW gallery (located at 390 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, New York). [Many thanks to Colin Torre for bringing this item to our attention.]

P·P·O·W is pleased to present Third World Mixtapes: The Infrastructure of Feeling, Shellyne Rodriguez’s (b. 1977) first solo exhibition with the gallery. In her highly detailed colored pencil drawings on black paper, the Bronx-based artist, educator, writer, and community organizer, stewards the stories of people that have shaped her lived experience. Engaging with the legacy of the Ashcan School, who bore witness to the rise of the modern metropolis and its effects on the poor and working classes in New York, Rodriguez views figures such as Alice Neel, Jane Dickson, and Martin Wong as extensions of this tradition and situates her practice alongside them. In twenty-two new portraits and landscapes, Rodriguez portrays the intellectuals and insurgents who have shaped her sociopolitical thinking and documents the diverse social fabric of the South Bronx. Together, the works form what Rodriguez describes as an “expression of love for life and the people around me striving to live it” and they present a curriculum intended to spark the dynamic analysis of relationships and the creation of connections across siloed forms of knowledge.

For Rodriguez, the landscape of the Bronx represents “a Third World at the periphery,” an enclave of varying global diasporas and displaced peoples, who make home just miles from the operating centers of capitalism. Documented in Rodriguez’s drawings is the insistence of life and the continuing potential for an interconnected struggle that is at once global and local. In Gemelos (Ibeji), 2022, twin boys from Haiti grin atop the playground slide; in Uncle’s Jack Fruit Hustle, 2022, an older Bangladeshi man stands at the corner he has stood selling fruit for years; and in Barry lines dem up, 2023, a local barber’s haircutting cape becomes a subversion of bourgeois aspirations. Certain portraits within the exhibition zoom in on various radical scholars in Rodriguez’s community. In Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Syllabus in Rehearsal, 2023, Rodriguez draws one of her mentors, the abolitionist, activist, and writer Ruth Wilson Gilmore, standing alongside the literary building blocks of her educational arsenal.  Borrowing the exhibition’s subtitle from a term coined by Gilmore, “the infrastructure of feeling” is a consciousness foundation, built by the accumulated histories of Black radical place making “even under extreme constraint” to create pockets of freedom. 

In three large-scale, diagrammatic drawings, Rodriguez maps the visual lexicon of this infrastructure. Inspired by early 1980’s hip-hop event flyers by the Bronx-based artist Buddy Esquire, the series’ architectural framing “rejects any notion of nostalgia about hip hop’s origin story, and instead sees it alive and constantly shape shifting, mirroring the migrants and diasporas that call the Bronx home today as well as the descendants of those Black New Yorkers, West Indians, and Puerto Ricans who built it.”

Reflecting the sampling and remixing inherent in the music and aesthetics of early hip-hop jams, works such as BX Third World Mix Tape no. 4, Caminos (Slow and Steady), 2022 leverage words, symbols, and figures to communicate the balance and unity created by a multitude of intersecting life paths traversing time, space, and cultures. Depicting different forms of movement New Yorkers see each day, Rodriguez intersperses this composition with the phrase, “together but separate and in agreement,” in the languages of various diasporas taken from the Zapatista parable “The Story of Questions.”

Artist’s Statement: I offer my reverence to Olódùmarè, from your child Ifawèmímó Oyěwùmí. Mo Juba Ifa! I would like to pay homage to my Mother Maria Magdalena Picart and my father Israel Rodriguez. My grandmother Miguelina Velez and my grandfather Mario Auxiliador Picart as well as all of my Egúngun and òrìsà who walk with me and my Orí. Asé O! I would like to thank the comrades who I have worked alongside and learned from throughout the years. Maria Alexandra Garcia who walked alongside me for seven years as my partner in life/comrade in struggle. Elliot J. Liu, Hillary Mercedes, Antonio Andres Rodriguez, Dalaeja Foreman, and MTL+ (Decolonize This Place) especially Nitasha Dhillon for her counsel and care. I would like to thank my mentors and friends, who have seen me fail at being a good revolutionary and a good human at times and who continue to slap some sense into me. My big sis Funmilayo, Moira Meltzer Cohen and Ruthie Gilmore. Mi madrina Arlene Davila, and the artists Chloe Bass and Alicia Grullon. I would like to thank Danielle De Jesus and Nicole Calderon for paving the road that led to this moment. You have my gratitude. To Tom Huhn. To Juan Sanchez and Nari Ward. Guadalupe Maravilla who quietly and consistently has had my back, for years. To Alvaro Barrington for your advice and support! My gratitude to the P·P·O·W team. Breana, Claire, Ella, Corey, Janos, Kevin, Jennifer, Rishi, Trey, Isaac, Eden, Wendy and Penny. To the people of the Bronx, past, present and future. Especially Pugsley Avenue. Intervale Avenue. Clinton Avenue. Soundview. Bronx River Houses. Zulu. Lastly, I pay homage to Buddy Esquire, to Walter Rodney, to the New York Panther 21, to the long list of militant actors and thinkers that nourish me (see bibliography). To the ancestors and descendants of this unceded Lenape land. To the people of Chinatown fighting displacement, where this work will hold space. And to all political prisoners and all peoples held in captivity. Free them. Free Palestine. Free Puerto Rico. Fuck the Police. Fight The Power. Fortify The People.

For more information, see https://www.ppowgallery.com/exhibitions/shellyne-rodriguez#tab:thumbnails;tab-1:slideshow and https://www.ppowgallery.com/

For more on the artist, see https://www.shellynerodriguez.com/

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