532 Gallery presents Space: Past Present, an exhibition of sculptures, assemblages, drawings, and artist books by Alberto Alejandro Rodríguez. Space: Past and Present is Rodríguez’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.

The works of Barcelona-based artist Alberto Alejandro Rodríguez are haunted by the specter of destruction. Using ruined architecture as a backdrop, he constructs liminal spaces suggestive of abandoned offices, squatted rooms, and entrances leading nowhere. To articulate how the vestiges of human effort that earmark such spaces can align with polarizing feelings of rootlessness and nostalgia, Rodríguez underscores the political narratives that are encrusted onto the surfaces of these sites.

These narratives are written in a cipher of wood and iron, swaths of torn-up wallpaper, and protruding mounds of discarded documents. But it’s only through the process of destruction, as it gradually reveals foundations that would normally be kept hidden, that the true cornerstones of our society can come to light. Across the different bodies of work on view, Rodríguez shows how sites indigenous to his native Cuba might parallel others scattered throughout Western nations. His Auriga series, which borrows its name from Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, refers to a mythical charioteer driving two winged horses: one representing all that is beautiful and good, while the other represents neither.

Composed of plasterboard, wood, and paper fragments retrieved from an abandoned mansion in Havana, Rodríguez’s Auriga works recreate what was once one of the most elegant buildings in Havana: a structure which, today, has all but fallen into ruin. While specialists have identified the cause of the building’s destruction as being due to its proximity to the sea, Rodríguez sees in this a poetic testament to history’s frailty in the teeth of geological time and ineluctable natural forces.

Underlying Rodríguez’s sense of naturalism lies a fascination with the detritus of weathered artifacts: the bygone worlds they allude to, and the spatial possibilities they make room for. The series titled Destruktion consists of found pieces of wood, iron, and wallpaper retrieved from a derelict building in Havana. Arranged to appear like miniature rooms, glimpsed through a portal, these works show how seemingly random and ephemeral surfaces can provide the foundation for entrenched architectural vistas. In a similar vein, Rodríguez’s artist books are dynamic records of unique spatial interventions.

Titled Prolog, the works included in this series anticipate design alternatives fostered by corrosion and decay, or spatially model the historical stages of a built structure from the date of its construction to the year of its demolition. While many of the works featured in Space: Past Present allude to places eaten away by time, a complementary process of solidification is revealed through Rodríguez’s use of documents. In a work like Descriptive Memory, which forms the centerpiece of the exhibition, the concepts “document” and “documentation” converge to map out a scale model of an abandoned building.

Rodríguez’s use of actual legal documents to reference the building’s history not only thematizes its current state of decay, but points out the political responses that have cropped up around the site. In the face of neglect, these policies have only served to mummify decay: maintaining the superficies of the building, like a monument of destruction, against all hopes of ever salvaging it from ruin.

Alberto Alejandro Rodríguez (1995, Havana) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro" and holds a Master’s Degree in Artistic Production and Research from the University of Barcelona. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions at galleries and cultural centers across Cuba, USA, and Spain: among them, the Contemporary Art Center (Havana); 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel (NY); the Viladot Foundation (Barcelona); and Casal Solleric (Palma de Mallorca). His work can be found in the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection and has been reviewed by The Brooklyn Rail, Hypermedia Magazine, and CdeCuba.