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First solo museum exhibition of Seattle artist Rodrigo Valenzuela on view at the Frye Art Museum
Rodrigo Valenzuela. Hedonic Reversal #3, 2015. Inkjet print. Commissioned by the Frye Art Museum and funded by the Frye Foundation.

SEATTLE, WA.- Frye Art Museum is presenting Future Ruins, the first solo museum exhibition of multi-award-winning Seattle artist Rodrigo Valenzuela, who has created a significant body of work since his first exhibition in the United States a mere four years ago; his video productions and photographic works have attracted increasing national attention.

For this exhibition, the Frye commissioned two works, Hedonic Reversal, Valenzuela’s first large-scale installation, and El Sisifo, a three-channel video projection. These new works move beyond the autobiographical focus of Valenzuela’s earlier projects to encompass broad discussions on class, racism, and labor. “My story,” he explains, “is essentially one of coming from a blue collar family, a family of workers. As a worker myself, I want to make a larger statement about everyday life.”

“It is gratifying to present the important conversations in Rodrigo’s new work and—following on this past summer’s exhibition at the Frye, Your Feast Has Ended—to continue to address pressing social issues in our city and across our nation,” said Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, director of the Frye and curator of Future Ruins.

Valenzuela’s work is, in part, a response to the recent transformation of Seattle as the city assumes its destiny as a capital of global wealth and philanthropy. Inexpensive apartments, workers’ cottages, and unpretentious manufacturing buildings are being replaced by the glittering citadels of the technological elite. While commentators speak of the familiar specter of a boom and bust economy and ruminate on present displacement and future ruins, Valenzuela focuses on “the aesthetic of ruins without the social or economic failures that accompany them.”

Occupying uncertain territory between documentary and fiction, he lays bare hedonic reversal, a pleasure in pain that is foreign to him, a pleasure in social and cultural ruins. “I have been looking at how to construct ruins that don’t carry this pain,” said Valenzuela. “Are there ruins beyond decay?”

Above all, Valenzuela’s gaze is directed at those who construct, clean, and maintain the palaces of illusion: the workers whom he names the 13th Man. Hidden from view, often under the cover of darkness, it is they who collect debris in stadiums following exuberant celebrations of the city’s athletes by the much vaunted 12th man. As Valenzuela notes, his labor—his work—is to bring visibility to the 13th Man and to honor her and him through the construction of a counternarrative for and about workers.

In addition to the two commissioned works, Future Ruins presents Valenzuela’s digital videos Diamond Box (2012) and Maria TV (2014).

Future Ruins: Rodrigo Valenzuela is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker.

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