Exhibition of work by Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya opens at Sargent's Daughters

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Exhibition of work by Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya opens at Sargent's Daughters
Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, As I willed myself out of entropy (detail), 2022.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sargent’s Daughters presents the second exhibition of work by Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya at the gallery, James Webb and the Thestral Born Without a Vertebrae. Composed of new sculptures and site-specific installations, the conceptual framework of this exhibition is elucidated in a narrative text written by the artist. The text, included below, depicts a vampire forced to reconstitute its body from space debris following the destruction of the last human spaceship leaving a destroyed Earth.

James Webb and the Thestral Born Without a Vertebrae

“But he was in empty space surrounded by blackness, feeding from the impossibly bright light of the sun, falling away from the great blue curve of the earth, aware over all the body of the great number of distant stars. They were gentle touches, and the sun was a great confining hand, gentle but inescapable.” -Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites: book two of the Xenogenesis Trilogy (1988)

Far away, beyond the gaze of god, inside the spaceship carrying the last survivors of the human especies, a fasting vampire suspended off the ground slowly turns clockwise in a prism-shaped chamber with padding on all sides. Its eyes are closed to better feel and hear the surroundings of space for signs of more hosts able to provide it with the blood supply it needs. As it drifts in its chamber, a long and twisting tail occasionally shows itself over billowing black robes that spread around its weightless body. With long black nails, it clicks open the doors that lead to its prey.

The ship is quiet inside except for the sounds of the machines that keep its crew in catatonic dormancy. Having smuggled into the ship, the vampire has survived total desiccation by pacing the amount of blood it takes from its defenseless human hosts. Because of its immortality and ability to cheat malaise by going to sleep for long periods of time, the vampire is perfectly suited for interminable trips in space. As it cares for its feed, it rides alone looking past the gold-layered windows of the ship. The gold deflecting and protecting it from the murderous rays of unnamed suns.

The precious materials of the spacecraft were sourced during a time when Earth's gold was no longer a natural resource. Generous amounts of the malleable substance were melted from artifacts of civilizations past. The crowns of a Spanish and English queen are now nothing more than parts of a system of conduits that transfer communication and heat deflectors that maintain a uniform temperature throughout the ship.

After an epoch of astral travel, the migration of the ship comes to a close, not by an unforeseen cosmic entity but by a foreign force inside the ship. Surreptitiously integrated into the bowels of the mainframe, a programmed virus, placed by some of the humans who were not permitted to steward humanity's new enterprise, detonates. There is no countdown, no red flash or voices directing towards evacuation. Only the sense of something gone wrong before the fiery roar of a force pushing everything out of its path.

The vampire receives the impact of the explosion as it ties itself to the open and punishing force of empty space, the extreme environment latches on to its body. Bones splinter through an already burnt and opened skin. Its fangs and jaw are yanked from its open mouth and its skin turns inside out – both blessed and cursed by its immortality. Its body isn't dead, yet it floats in curdled tentacular pieces to hide in the shadow of the remnants of the ship. Away from the direction of the nearest star.

Its corporal remains ride along the detritus of the ship, each part feeling its proximity and the loss of parts lost to the triggering pull of larger celestial bodies. Without blood to feed on, the shards of its body slowly adapt to use the fuel that powered the ship as energy. Its new host provides it with the energy needed for augmentation, growth, and healing.

In time, it coagulates more and more layers of its new body around the weaker connections with the remnants of the ship. There, the lumps of tissue find rhythm and hope again in the chaos of what's left of its body, fighting to create its own axis, circling onto itself, but holding its position while discarding parts of itself that it can't use. It lets go of the skin that is too burnt and damaged to revive, it covers scars that are still healing with scraps of an astronaut's suit. A glimpse of deep time passes before the larger parts of the vampire start to come together. The larger disembodied pieces summon the smaller fragments that are in close proximity to its own orbit and are finally able to touch and connect their tissues with one another.

Needing more protection and insulation from solar radiation, it blends with the gold still left on the ship. As it merges with it, it picks up the subtle and microscopic ripples that made up the previous shapes of its material composition. The lost vestiges of humanity's achievements echo and come to life in blazing stoic forms and shapes: graduation rings, hoop earrings, goblets, Ferrero Rocher, the Spanish galleons who hold in their histories the shadow of an Aztec nose ring looted from those royals seen as gods placed on this earth.

In this alchemical blending, the body of the vampire acquiesces to the footprint left in the luster of gold and its malleability, its memories transubstantiate into the vampire, feeding on humans one last time. It takes onto itself the memory of Nathan Chen using the crescendo of “Rocket Man” by Elton John to twirl his body up to the audience of the 2022 Winter Olympics to win gold; it is strengthened by the memory of a Virgin Mary necklace falling off a girl’s neck; it feeds on people hunched over landfills looking for tiny amounts of gold on plated circuit boards; it is now Maria Felix walking into Cartier in Paris with a baby crocodile to have it replicated into a gold necklace; and is finally fortified by astronaut José Moreno Hernández, the son of farmworkers, who took to space in 2007 with a gold layered helmet to protect him from the sun.

The vampire in its new photosynthetic nebulous form – now able to power itself by the light of all suns – becomes a mutation of both myth and reality. Emblazoned with the memory of Earth’s distant past, its new shape now pointing to the stars.

Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya (b. 1989, Parral. Chihuahua, Mexico) graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with an MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media in 2020. Montoya’s works are a fantastic becoming that center around anthologies and social issues concerning border culture, abjection, and mestizaje. Aided by magical realism, nahualismo, Sci-Fi, and the labor of his family, his work hybridizes and creates parallels between land, human, and animal as a way to investigate the process in which violence eradicates, erases, and erodes communities of color. He has recently exhibited at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA; Murmurs, Los Angeles, CA; Tuscon Museum of Contemporary Art, Tuscon, AZ; Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, CA; Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA; Company Gallery, New York, NY; and Sargent’s Daughters, New York, NY. His work has been reviewed in artnet news, The New York Times, Hyperallergic and Contemporary Art Review LA. He is represented by Sargent’s Daughters.

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