It is difficult not to be happy at 1/Off Gallery when Farley del Rosario’s works are on display. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the simple joy that’s brought on by childhood images of cartoons, nor is it about the bright happy colors on del Rosario’s canvasses. Instead it is a happiness that’s premised on a sense of nostalgia; a joy that’s grounded in a seeming melancholia.
The bigger work on display is del Rosario’s “Bridged” – the one he had put together for Nokia’s 10 Young and Exciting Artists exhibit. Here and now, it is without the installation of miniature clay figures, yet it doesn’t lose its daring take on how communication just might be our downfall. On canvas, the artist’s standard figure is surrounded by miniature versions of itself, all of them bound by the lines of communication which are directly attached to mouths and ears, in various dimensions and colors. The seeming mess of lines and thoughts, and the way they are intertwined isn’t at all a simplistic view of bridging communication. We are already bridged because we cannot remove ourselves from this mess, this noise, these conversations.
The seriousness of the subject matter is balanced by the fact of del Rosario’s bright and happy colors, and of course his signature cartoon-like imagery. This dynamic between the serious and the light, the sad and the happy, is what allows for the possibility of melancholia in del Rosario’s work. This does cut across what seems to be del Rosario’s evolution in his more recent productions.
The “Bond of Brothers” highlights on the one hand the conversation between two seemingly alike individuals, as it precisely downplays the differences: one’s mouth is in speech, the other’s is in awe; one’s eyebrows are lifted, the other’s are barely there. It is the one who isn’t speaking that has his hand hooked to the other’s, as if holding onto every word uttered, and the moments it creates. It’s an endearing but critical take on brotherhood, and the relationship that is necessary to its existence.
It is this same unconventional take on relationships that del Rosario works with “The Key To You”, where a man and woman hold between them one heart and one key. They are as well bound by one body, within which their individual bodies exist, an obvious reference to notionsof oneness and unity in romantic love. And yet this is not at all a romanticization of love, as the literal existence of key and heart put into question emotion and feelings, the impossibility of explaining love and its complexities. In “The Key To You” del Rosario’s literal take on the ideas that surround love remove it from our now commercialized notions of love as feteshized commodity – that thing we can’t grasp or understand, but need to have anyway.
It is here, with love, that melancholia necessarily sweeps the spectator away. And with del Rosario’s evolved figures in “Flowerfarm” and “Meet Up” this melancholia is further infused with memories of childhood imagination. But of course in del Rosario’s hands, this means a witty re-imagination. In “Flowerfarm”, the conventional idea of a flowerfarm is made unfamiliar by the large stalks and pistils that fill the canvas. Relative to this mess are del Rosario’s figures, this time with more elongated heads, living and alive within the mess of plant parts.
“Meet Up” meanwhile, dives headlong into the discourse oftogetherness and interconnectedness even when it also asserts a literal meet up as movement. Here, his figures on canvas are all aboard tiny structures with ladders, all of which are moving up – literally up – and therefore never meeting.
In both these works, it’s del Rosario’s wit that does shine through, as well asa distinct perspective that seems to look at the world differently. Here, there are no rose-colored glasses. Instead what del Rosario does is look at the world on x-ray vision: he reveals – and revels! – in what we have put in the back of our heads, or have cloaked behind our notion of adulthood. These works tell us that what we become happy about, is really our own melancholia.