Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, United States
September 15 – November 13, 2016


Rolando Peña: Big Bang

By Katherine Chacón (Art Critic, Former Museum Director)



“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
– Albert Einstein


Rolando Peña’s trajectory places him as a pioneer of many contemporary art expressions in Latin America. Having started his creative journey in the fields of theater and dance, his early incursions into the visual arts were through happenings, performances and action art. In fact, Peña was one of the first artists making multimedia shows—where he combined dance, theater, projection of images, film and texts—on the continent. These experiences opened the doors to conceptualism in a territory that was still searching for its cultural identity while researching new artistic languages.

His career has been marked by internationalization and experimentation. The first carried him to live and create in New York, Paris, Caracas and other cities of Europe and Latin America where he was part of various avant-garde cultural movements. His experimental nature led him to explore diverse means offering a wide creative territory where video, engraving, installations, and digital media converge in addition to the actions mentioned before. Furthermore, Peña’s work has been nurtured, since the sixties, from art, technology and scientific knowledge.

Peña is, in this regard, a multifaceted artist—free and bold—but also a student of current technologies and, particularly, the way to transfer into them the complex visuality of contemporary times.

The theme of oil—with the oil barrel as its symbolic concretion—first appears in Pena’s work during the eighties. In the varied panorama of his production, the barrel becomes an unmistakable sign of his language. But it will be in the following decade—with the exhibition of Mene Digital presented in Caracas in 1993—when Peña executed the symbolic-technological hybridization of his proposal and anticipated the unimaginable possibilities that computing would bring to the processes of artistic creation. Multimedia interactive installations as The Standard Model of the Mater: Tribute to the 20th Century (1999) or The Barrel of God (2003), among other works, show this process.

In Peña’s work, the oil barrel alludes to the omnipresence of this fuel in the contemporary world. For the artist, this is a “marvelous and magical force” whose negative face poses “a big deception—the vast camouflage of contemporary history.” Peña understands this energy as a force accompanying the delicate balance of the universe but one that also can destroy it. Hence, his proposal is a deeply political statement encompassing ideas from ecology to the cosmos and conceives energy as a primordial manifestation of the space-time infiniteness. The forcefulness of his proposals in this regard made Peña elected to be granted a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation for the project Make Oil Green in 2009.

The installations Black over Black and Gold over Gold, among others, open the series of works where the barrel unfolds and disintegrates in spaces of sideral views. Big Bang is part of this series: it was preceded by pieces like Gold Fractured Barrel (2014) and Black Gold (2015). Big Bang is comprised of a video and seventeen digital prints that follow the sequence of the astral “great explosion” where the barrel takes the place of the space-time zone known in physics as the “singularity” whose expansion allowed the formation of the universe. The path of that explosion is also the trail of the disintegration/creation of the barrel whose fragments seem to be launched to the spectator.

Big Bang shows an expansive transformation in the recent work of Rolando Peña. A macrocosmic, almost spiritual, sense has risen in it connecting the energetic with the great questions about the existence of man in the cosmos. The artist conducts our gaze towards the awareness of this energy that is everything: it surpasses us, goes through us and connects us with what we have known since the beginning of the universe.

Photo by Karla K. Gomez

Photo by Karla K. Gomez

Photo by Karla K. Gomez

Photo by Karla K. Gomez