The library will endure; it is the universe. As for us, everything has not been written; we are not turning into phantoms. We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and our future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.
― Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”
Velez Rodriguez’s recent paintings are based on Borges’ idea of an infinite library, containing every possible ordering of just 25 basic characters (22 letters, the period, the comma, and the space). Though the majority of the books in this universe would be pure gibberish, the library also must contain every masterpiece ever written, all useful information, biographies of any person, and translations from all languages. Borges writes of those who seek the greatest answers to life in this library and those who burn another’s book, erasing their life story. Even acts of destruction are rendered pointless in that it is impossible to corrupt the library; it is so infinite that it surpasses time and the human race.
Like a compendium in this library, painting is a lifetime pursuit which in the end becomes a personal volume in a giant—perhaps infinite—library of images. Painting is, in this sense, futile—although many would go to great lengths to find the secret volume hidden in the stacks. In this exhibition, Velez Rodriguez creates combinations of characters, but beyond the written language she seeks to catalog uneasy alliances of layered gestures. These can be figurative, geometrical, landscape-reminiscent, linear, open field, curvilinear, bright, dull, scraped, piled, fast, slow: generating and speaking a personal language.
Velez Rodriguez self-identifies as a code switcher, recognizing herself and her life in the library’s array of information. Her paintings dissolve into abstraction but also coalesce to form images full of humor, biographical detail, and wisdom. As she writes, “I am a liminal creature that exists between oral languages, written languages, and abstract metaphorical bastardizations of many languages. I borrow from many volumes in the library.”