Miguel Rodriguez is a self-described science and politics junkie who creates loud and amusing pop culture-inspired works—big, bold, bright and sculptural. There’s the giant brain, the wall-mounted cheeseburgers, the lines of fluorescent turtles and the ’80s-esque bust of a man sporting a high fade.
But in 8 Miles Out, Six Feet Under his focus is murals, flat minimalist works covering the interior walls of the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery in electric colors. The design-heavy exhibit taps into the desert landscape, using electricity as subject matter, its role as a giver and taker of life. Its title riffs on the term “86’d,” which in lore refers to mobsters burying their victims (eight miles out and six feet under).
That the slang is also linked to the electrical kill switch (and rowdy laborers laying electricity grids across the country in the early 20th century getting kicked out of locals establishments) resonated with the artist, whose recurring thought every summer is of our reliance on electricity in the desert. What would happen if the power grid went out? It’s God in these parts.
In 8 Miles Out, chevron patterns extend from a mostly indiscernible “hand of God” rendered in opaque paint. The pattern pulsates in a dynamic color exchange from one end of the wall to another. Across the room a clip-art, 1950s boy holding a wire is electrocuted, dropping down onto the hard-edged yellow, magenta and deep purple landscape. A silhouette of a transformer tower looms in the nearby mountains. The giant boy, serving as a stand-in for a vulnerable metropolis, represents the danger in an otherwise life-saving utility. Essentially, he’s 86’d. Like electricity’s impact, 8 Miles Out is as calming as it is invigorating.
8 Miles Out, 6 Feet Under Through July 27; Nevada Humanities Program Gallery at Arts Square, nevada humanities.org.