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Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 Studio Visits: Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova in his design District studio.

In conjunction with recent collaborations between Thomas Hollingworth, Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 (Magazine pg. 100), Modern Luxury (Miami) and NO MAD Paper, which feature Miami’s cultural highlights, ARTLURKER is presenting studio visits of select Miami based contemporary artists. Running concurrently with Art Basel Miami Beach the aim of these features is to venerate the cities native artistic wealth and honor those who continue to make Miami what it is.

Represented by David Castillo Gallery in Miami, Rodriguez-Casanova’s work asks questions regarding domestic objects, suburban clichés, their environments and the labor associated with these traditions. By drawing attention to the aesthetics of the banal and its production methods in relation to art history, he illuminates issues of value, class, ethics, economics and identity.

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova, A Wooden Deck, 2008. Wood, dimensions variable. Photo by Frances Trombly.

Thank you for your time Leyden, what projects do you have on view right now?

This year I have a number of projects. I have a piece at CasaLin this year; it’s a smaller show than in previous years. Both Frances [Trombly] and I are doing a piece for CasaLin. This year it’s a lot less artists so it’s me, Frances [Trombly], Robert Chambers, Mette Tommerup, Ralph Provisero and Julie Davidow. What I’ve done for this is built deck, and the deck is based on one particular number of Frank Stella’s Black Paintings, he did a bunch of them. I am hoping to do a couple of these decks, but anyway it’s that the wood pattern is going to be the same pattern as one of those paintings. And it will be a fully functioning deck, so you can walk on it, hang out on it, whatever. Other projects and works include the Inaccessible Gazebo piece at Socrates Sculpture Park (NY) and a white picket fence that I just installed in the courtyard outside of Design Miami. For the gallery, we’re [Frances Trombly] working on a collaborative project. Its one of the four solo shows that David is opening and it’s the first time that we have worked together, on a specific piece. And within that collaboration there are other works. The show has really been shaped by the space. And that’s it really, just trying to keep it low key because there’s so much going on.

Work in progress.

And after Basel?

I have this piece, (pictured above) that I am working on for 2009 for the Frost Museum. Dennis Scholl is having a show of his collection in his museum. It’s just going to be a smaller show of his sculptural pieces, and he commissioned that for the show. So I built it here so that he could see what looked like and then I need to see if its going to be able to be installed the way that it needs to be installed in the space. because where its going is in kind of an interesting in a spot because its not going in the regular gallery, there’s this really weird plinth that sticks out of the atrium wall. It’s this weird place that you can’t get to and you only see it from afar.

So is the black glass not intended to reflect the viewer?

Its kind of a situation where that he wanted me to make a piece for his collection but also specifically wanted me to address the plinth area so the problem was that this piece could work up there, but will it work once it comes down from there and its part of your collection? The show will also travel to another museum that its not going to be installed up there, its going to be installed in a regular, you know, so anyway so that was the thing, so this piece works because when its up there it sort of reflects the light and you can’t really tell if its actually empty or if its like this really weird reflection, but when you bring it down to the level where you’re at you see yourself in the reflection and it creates another sort of effect that’s a little different. When you hang out with it for a while you realize its kind of creepy. It sort of seems like what you’re looking at isn’t really there, that you could go right through, but you cant, it’s a barrier.

Work in progress.

The ready made is a strong element to your work, where do the references to minimalism originate?

In a way something’s I am doing reference minimalism, like this piece (above) for Steven Wolf next fall, but at the same time I bring it down to the core antithesis of minimalism because everything is off, the whole thing is eyeballed and its screwed to the wall. It’s in complete contrast to the original principles of minimalism.

You speak about culture and experience. Are your readymade objects symbolic of personal heritage?

It is connected to me somehow, to me and my upbringing, but I have been aiming to make it a bit more open ended so that its not so precisely attached to some kind of Hispanic kitsch, but rather little more open to suburban in general.

In that way it becomes even more mundane and clinical almost to a point.

It’s just a bit more open and it does have the little aspects if kitsch still in there but not so much as its so overtly so Hispanic. The gates (below) are a little bit more connected to hat heritage than most of the other works but even they are removed enough to where you could say “its just a fence”.

And then the white picket fence goes almost in the opposite direction.

Exactly, it’s more a sort of North American icon. But all this stuff is deeply rooted in domesticity and the clichés and I like how working class aesthetics and working class decision making processes that are linked to economics and so many different things, like education and so on and so forth, I like how that visual language and those icons and the materials and how that links in to some of the principles of the minimalist or conceptual art that I look at or think about.

Two Gates Externally Locked, 2008. Powder coated aluminum, keys, lanyards, dimensions variable.

What pushes you to represent these things in sculpture?

I think sculpture is the most intense way to communicate these ideas because the experience you have with an object in a space, very much like the experience you have with a person in a space, you cannot match it with any other medium. Whether its photography, film or painting its just impossible because its in a flat plane, its sort of incarcerated by this square and by the flatness where as sculpture is protrudes into your personal space and you have to negotiate it within your surroundings.

We have of course been desensitized to a certain extent to the image, but in a similar respect we are desensitized to sculpture because of the simple fact that it is a physical object, especially your work, which mimics real objects. In a way this makes the experience less intense, does it not?

Less intense. Yeah, and I think you have to look at the realm that they exist in. By the objects being less an art object and more like a real object it distorts the state that they are presented in to where they be become almost more intense than what you would expect just by negating what you would expect when you walk into a space. SO if they did exist out in the world anywhere then they would just be what they are, they would just sort of blend in, in certain cases. The gate for one person for example, and the inaccessible gazebo stick out because they don’t make sense.

An Inaccessible Gazebo, 2008.

Inaccessibility has been a theme in a number of your works has it not?

Yes, that keeps repeating itself. Its kind of weird and I have thought about it for a long time; about the right of passage one goes through when you go through the process of leaving a home where these things exist or come from and you go on your own or go to school or whatever and you kind of start to get out of this very over protective or secure environment to set out and do whatever it is that you’re going to do.

And so all these works are addressing or dealing with a subconscious feeling that we all might have about being secure?

And safety. Because when you leave that environment, to go on your own, everything you do when you leave that environment is an effort to try to acquire what you had, but making it yourself. So everything you do is about recreating that environment.

But you are making your environment in work, vicariously, as opposed to building a real home?

I look at my parents, and the way that they left and grew up and started a family and fixed a home and I realize that I haven’t really done that. Like we haven’t started a family or done any of that yet so in a way I am exorcising a weird subconscious thing through art work. It’s really innate in me because I grew up helping my father do these things.

Perhaps it’s better than being sensationalist. With this kind of work it seems you really only have two choices: make it dysfunctional or hang it upside down.

Yeah, sometimes I have hung stuff upside down, but anyway, you’ve got to be careful with that[.]


In addition to current exhibitions of his work at David Castillo Gallery, CasaLin, Socrates Park and the court yard beside Design Miami, Rodriguez-Casanova will show at The Frost Museum in April of 2009. This will be followed by a month residency in Capri, Italy to which himself and Frances Trombly are placed. In the fall the pair will show at Steven Wolf in San Fransico.

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Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 Studio Visits: Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova