Roots and branches are at the same level in the process of organizing ones thinking according to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. They propose this metaphor, originally taken from biology, as a rhizomatic way of thinking. The rhizome, like a root system, is so fertile that it may sprout in many different places at the same time. According to these philosophers we can think without a strong center growing many branches as a way of conceiving reality. This may seem chaotic, but it is in the relationships between those branches that we begin to perceive an organic system. The concept of the rhizome can easily be applied to the artworks of two Puerto Rican sculptors Melquiades Rosario Sastre and Elizabeth Robles whose work reflects the ever-growing tendrils of the rhizome.
An artist and educator Melquiades Rosario Sastre is a sculptor born in Morovis, Puerto Rico in 1953. The majority of his sculptures are made from indigenous wood. In his works, The Dream of the Birds (2006), The Hammer Relief (2005) and “La flor de la mirada” The Flower of the Gaze (2006) we can see the amorphous structure emerge and his assemblage of parts come together avoiding the recognizable center of a tree. The repetition of little forms in The Dream of the Birds goes from one point to another around a tridimensional structure lending the piece a sensorial texture of movement. Those movements create a dialogue of constant participation between all of the parts. In The Flower of the Gaze, Rosario transforms the idea of a flower into a skeletal form of fertile segments that attract the observer. In contrast the rhizome becomes more distinct in his piece The Hammer Relief, due to the interaction between the hammer knots, which keep the work in an act of constant construction as they play against one another. Because of this movement this piece can be seen as violent but if we look more deeply the hammers become a cloud that begins to amalgamate. The work connotes destruction and construction all at the same time.
Elizabeth Robles was born in Camuy, Puerto Rico in 1960. She is an artist and professor. Her sculptures “Bodegón” Still life (2011), “Desvío” Detour (2013) and “Cúmulo” Pile (2010) are all made with encaustic. The use of beeswax and pigment is part of an almost religious approach to making sculpture. The smell and texture of this technique are fascinating. Due to the translucent properties of the wax you can see each level of the material. Like an excessive growth of troubled skin their presence is visceral and conveys a certain vulnerability in front of the observer. Pile (2010) is a horizontal tube ruptured in the middle by a blue growth and rotten nodules. The sculpture has an element of the uncanny within, representing both the known and unknown. Like two legs opening to the limit, in a prurient gesture of invitation, it offers the spectator visual destruction, a body without organs. Is Elizabeth dismantling an organism? Maybe. Maybe not. Detour (2013), is probably the most rhizomatic piece of the three. It is an ever growing umbilical cord that expands on the floor as a worm of never ending hunger. The artist’s idea is that the work continues to develop six times it original size.
Like the theory of rhizome put forward by Deleuze and Guattari the art of Rosario and Robles explore differing levels of a subject simultaneously. The intensity of these six sprouting works is effective. It would be very interesting to see the works of these two strong Puerto Rican artists displayed in a common space relating to each other. An exhibit that would certainly help us continue the quest to uncover their layers, branches and roots. by Barbara Diaz-Tapia