Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

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Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada
Born (1966-02-05) February 5, 1966 (age 49)
Santa Clara, Cuba,
Education Jersey City State College
Known for Urban art, Street art, Land art
Notable work Culture Jamming (1989-1997)
Identity Series (2002-present)
'Expectation' (2008)
Movement Culture Jamming Fine Street

Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is a Cuban-American Contemporary Artist. Born February 5, 1966, Cuba, he grew up in the United States. Rodríguez-Gerada predominantly creates his work in urban spaces on a large scale. As a founding member of the early ‘90s New York Culture Jamming movement first with the group ‘Artfux’ and later with the 'Cicada Corps of Artists', Rodríguez-Gerada launched interventions upon billboards and public advertising. By 1997 he was beginning move towards working solo.[1] In 2002 Rodríguez-Gerada moved to Barcelona and focused on the large-scale ephemeral charcoal drawings of his Identity Series.[2] He then developed the Terrestrial Series; ephemeral earthworks so expansive as to be visible from space. Other ongoing projects include the Identity Composite Series, and smaller artworks he calls Urban Analogies, and Memorylythics.[3] Since 2009 he has curated the annual AvantGuard Urbano Festival; a small Urban Art Festival with big names, held in Tudela, Navarre, Northern Spain.[4] He also takes part in numerous shows and exhibitions.[5]

Early years[edit]

Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada immigrated with his family from Cuba to the US in 1970, to settle in North Plainfield, New Jersey.[6] It wasn’t until his twenties that he realized that the move was because his parents had not wanted him and his two elder brothers to grow up under the then newly implemented system of control in Cuba. His father spent three years cutting sugar cane in order to gain visas.

Rodríguez-Gerada was one of the first Hispanic immigrants to enrol (spelling) in his local school system . This assertion is directly contested by a North Plainfield resident who attended the same schools within the district during the same time-frame.[7] There he was bullied for being Spanish, so he rebelled against speaking it in order to fit in with the other children. His fascination with how we form our Identity is something he links to his experiences as a child.[8] In the U.S school system he saw children from many different backgrounds thrown into the ‘melting pot’, which has been said to leave children from immigrant backgrounds lost in a cultural limbo as adults.[9] Again, the North Plainfield resident cited above re-asserts that North Plainfield, NJ during the 1960s and 1970s was a typical American town. There was nothing unique about its assimilation to American culture. For immigrant Americans, regardless of origin, the environment naturally causes a clash between old and new culture that existed then and still exists.[7]

As a boy he was interested in creating things; he always had a love of drawing and got really involved in art whilst at high school.[10] Since the age of sixteen he started hanging out in Manhattan. Speaking of his influences he said:

‘I was surrounded by theatre (spelling), music and art that was breaking barriers and it seemed natural that I should want to do the same’[11]

He went to study at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) where he met the future members of ‘Artfux’. The media was very interested in their activity and so the group realised (spelling) there were other issue that could benefit from this type of media attention. They decided to join as ‘Artfux’ and continue producing controversial artwork together.[12]

Culture Jamming[edit]

Artfux started by illegally altering billboards and staging socially charged street actions and performances.[6] But it was their billboard alterations that had the most coherent goal and plan of action in order to effect change. They targeted the disproportionately high amount of damaging products (get drunk quick beverages and menthol cigarette brands) being advertised in poor areas.[13]

Coinciding with their ‘ad-busting’ was a wave of black and Latino communities coming together against cigarette and alcohol advertising. The communities accused these companies of exploiting black poverty by target –marketing inner cities for their lethal product. The Reverend Calvin O. Butts would take his parishioners on ‘bill-board busting’ missions and they would simply paint over the cigarette or alcohol adverts around their church with white paint.[14]

Whilst the Reverend Calvin O. Butts method was effective Rodríguez-Gerada, with Artfux, sought more creative ways to undermine the billboard consumption messages: by turning them into political messages of their own with ‘clever/cute’[15] interventions. That way they could borrow the legitimacy of the advertising itself and still reach the same audience the adverts were originally targeting.[16] For example Rodríguez-Gerada would morph the faces of cigarette models so they looked rancid and diseased. He then replaced the standard Surgeon General’s warning with his own messages: ‘Struggle General’s warning: Black and Latinos are the prime scapegoats for illegal drugs, and the prime target for legal ones’.[17] With a deft ‘detournement’ (‘an image message or artifact lifted our of its context to create a new meaning’)[18] a jammed ad might now speak about the negative effects of those products. Press releases were then sent out with photos of the exploits. Every time a newspaper, magazine or newscast gave them the platform to address these social ills Artfux considered it a victory.[13]

Culture jamming is seen as a part of the backlash against the brands, which was to do with specific issues; the loss of public space, corporate censorship and unethical labour practices.[19]

Rodríguez-Gerada hoped to use his culture jammed billboards to open up a dialogue with the community.[20] where there had only been a statement.

‘Culture jamming baldly rejects the idea that marketing- because it buys its way into our public spaces- must be passively accepted as a one-way information flow.’[21]

As a culture jammer he used the pseudo name ‘Artjammer’.[22]

Following the break up of Artfux Rodríguez-Gerada joined the Cicada Crops of artists, with whom he continued to culture jam. He soon extended his critiques beyond tobacco and alcohol ads to include rampant ad bombardment and commercialism in general.[17]

By 1997, when Klein interviewed Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, he was beginning to move away from working with a collective, and starting to experiment with more urban semiotics (incorrect term, semiotics is a field of study) by altering street signs as well.[23] He had become disillusioned with the culture jamming movement. So great was its success that culture jamming’s very ability to undermine those ads became negated. Instead the brands gained more attention, and the advertisers began to culture jam their own ads to bring attention to themselves, absorbing the aesthetics of the movement into their advertising.[24]

‘Marketers have always extracted symbols and signs from the resistance movements of their day’ (No Logo)[25]

Identity Series[edit]

In 2002, around the time that Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada moved to Barcelona, he began to create large charcoal portrait drawings of anonymous locals, covering the size of large exterior urban walls. They are ephemeral in nature; the properties of charcoal allow them to fade with the elements or disappearance with the destruction of the wall.

He borrows the same scale, location and iconic approach as urban advertising to undermine much of what that stands for. The momentum gained from such attention is directed towards social issues,[26] instead of advertising. Rather than a famous face that sells something, Rodríguez-Gerada chooses random locals who sell nothing. By raising them in a public space he wants to question the controls imposed on those public spaces, preconceptions of where art is permitted and to whom it is directed. Their impermanence defies imposition on the space.

Having selected someone who has a strong identity with the area where the pieces are created, Rodríguez-Gerada photographs their face to create a mock-up. He then starts to create a hyper realistic work on the sides of the building .[27] Initially he used ladders and scaffolding, but he now creates his giant drawings with hydraulic lifts. Each drawing might take up to a week of intense effort, and may last from only two to six months, leaving no negative impact on the environment.

Documentation of the process begins with finding the protagonist, to the act of creating the drawings and to the chronicling of the disappearance, so that the finished drawing is not the necessarily the pinnacle of the piece:

‘The memory that is left confirms the importance and fragility of every existence. My intent is to have identity, place and memory become one.’[26]

Poetic concept lies in the celebration of individual identity, as opposed to one dictated by brands or fashion.[27] With dignity they also remind us of our transience.[28][29]

Identity Composite Series[edit]

Complementary to the Identity Series Rodríguez-Gerada has developed The Identity Composite Series. With help from the Autonomous University of Barcelona which has developed an algorithm programme, he has been able to create the composite face of the demographics of a city based on multiple 3D facial scans. As an artist in residence at the Autonomous University of Barcelona he created the first Composite Identity based on 100 faces in the demographics of that area in 2009. The resultant portrait was drawn in charcoal on an exterior wall surface within the area. In 2010 he created an Identity Composite for Badalona, Spain, using 3D scans of 34 faces, from the 34 different neighborhoods in Badalona. It too became a charcoal portrait, to grace a Badalona wall.[30] Rodríguez-Gerada hopes to use the multidisciplinary project to create monumental sculptures as well as murals, in different cities ‘that mirror each location’s idiosyncrasy and population.’[31]


Memorylithics is a sculpture series made using old architectural elements such as stone and bricks. In the finished artwork Rodríguez-Gerada involves the elements of the found piece.[32]

Terrestrial Series[edit]

Rodríguez-Gerada’s earth works in the Terrestrial series are designed on such a spectacular scale that they may be viewed through Google Earth or even photographed by passing satellites. The location, scale and material tend to emphasise what he is trying to say with each project, which in essence is driven by empathy for the individual. As with the Identity Series, they are ephemeral and the materials used do not negatively impact the environment. Each work is put together using a vector image and GPS technology so that they can then be mapped out on the ground. The works reflect Rodríguez-Gerada’s fascination with aerial photography and land art, as well as highlight new technologies and new ways we view the earth.[33] He intends the enormity of the process, involving so many people coming together to create something in positivity, to raise the spirit of each project beyond the completion of the artwork.[34]


Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada’s first Terrestrial work was Expectation, a giant ephemeral sand painting in the likeness of Barack Obama, on a Barcelona beachfront, Spain. It was designed to be viewed from space by Google Earth. On November the 3rd 2008, the day before the U.S elections, the Expectation project was presented at a press conference in Barcelona. The work was created using a vector graph and approximately 650 tons of sand and gravel covering an area 120 by 80 metre wide. It was supported by volunteers, who completed the work despite poor weather conditions. The Forum de las Culturas, Barcelona, administered it.[35]

Through scale and location the whole project was visualised to reflect the global impact of that election. The title ‘Expectation’ lacks the idealism of ‘Hope’ and the work was intended as a way to open a dialogue ‘about the dramatic uncertainties of our time and the irrational search for a hero to save us’.[36] Rodríguez-Gerada said that having it made from sand and gravel was like making a giant mandala to pray for change but also alludes to how the hope could fade away,[37] as the sand eventually did.

Homage to Enric Miralles[edit]

To commemorate Enric Miralles, a Catalan architect, on the tenth anniversary of his death Rodríguez-Gerada created a sand painting of his portrait, which was then transformed and undone on July the 3rd 2010, Barcelona. Miralles died at the age of 44 but his work left a remarkable legacy. His wife, architect Benedetta Tagliabue and their studio EMBT, organized the work and a picnic for family and friends. The portrait was a giant mandala in homage to Enric Miralles.[38][39]


The GAL-LA project was created as part of the first planetary art exhibits called ‘eARTh’ curated by, which brought together artists from over 16 countries to make art that was visible from space. Each gigantic piece was created to highlight a particular issue related to Climate Change in response to the 2010 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. The number 350 is the parts per million CO2 reduction target proposed by scientists to combat climate change. Gal-La was created on the beach of the Delta del Ebro in Spain using shade material and wooden posts, covering over six acres.[40] Designed as a sun stencil, the piece was made to bring attention to the problem of sunlight/ heat that cannot escape back into space because of greenhouse gases.

Rodríguez-Gerada chose a little girl named Gal-la who lives in the Delta del Ebro and created this icon in her likeness; 'an icon to symbolize all the reasons for the world to act today'. The shadows cast by the temporary sheets between the posts picked out details of the girl’s face and hair.[41] Her portrait was constructed using a labyrinth design to allude to the tenacity of the human spirit to find a solution.[42] As he stated: ‘ By giving importance to each life, I want to give importance to empathy.’[43] Gal-La was chosen to be included on day 96 in Vivienne Westwood’s online installations collection of ‘100 days of Active Resistance’, a concept born from her manifesto to encourage the pursuit of culture and art to provide an antidote to propaganda.[44]

Mama cash[edit]

For the Mama Cash project Rodríguez-Gerada created a portrait of the face of a fierce feminist activist, spanning almost two football fields on Zeeburghereiland, Amsterdam, in winter 2012.[45] With the help of 80 volunteers the face was constructed in under a week using almost five miles of rope, seven tons of straw, 5300 cubic feet of soil and 1150 wooden poles. The portrait was to remain for one year.[46] Rodríguez-Gerada had been invited to Amsterdam to create a piece for the International Human Rights Day, to help launch ‘Vogelvrije Vrouwen’ (‘Defend Women who defend human rights’). This is a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Mesoamerican women who are illegally targeted and terrorized for defending human rights in that region. Mama Cash, a feminist foundation, commissioned the work.

He said ‘ I chose to use fertile soil to create this piece as a metaphor for what can come forth from the vision of these women if it is respected and allowed to bring about change.’[47]


As Belfast Festival at Queen’s first artist in residence Rodríguez-Gerada created the UK and Irelands largest portrait to date, with Wish, in October 2013. The ephemeral portrait of a young girl making a wish covers eleven acres of the Titanic quarter of Belfast. Approximately 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons of soil, 2,000 tons of sand, plus grass, stones and strings were used to make the portrait. Adjacent buildings allow viewings until December 2013, but it is most comfortably viewed by aerial or satellite photo. Wish was eighteen months in the planning, and one month in execution, with a huge team of volunteers. As Rodríguez-Gerada had envisaged, the Belfast community very much collaborated with and supported the project, from construction companies such as MacLaughlin Harvey to the fire brigade. The portrait is based on a photo of an anonymous six-year-old Belfast girl that he had taken on one of his many trips to get to know and love the city in the prior eighteen months.[48] Rodríguez-Gerada wanted to lift the pure moment of a child’s wish to the magnitude of a universal statement, particularly in the context of city like Belfast.[34] For the artist it was the enormity of people coming together in support on such a large scale that amplified such a simple moment to a profound level.[49]


  1. ^ Pena, Jeffrey. "Interview with Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Gavin, Francesca (2007). Street Renegades, New Underground Street Art. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-85669-529-9. 
  3. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Avant Garde Urbano - Tudela De Navarra, Spain - Sept 30 thru Oct 4". Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada: The A's to your Q's". Wooster Collective. Retrieved 26 September 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  7. ^ a b Landau, M.P. See Talk Page, New Article Additions.
  8. ^ Bello, Manuel. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Interview". Fecal Face. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Pena, Jeffrey. "Interview with Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Curbs and Stoops. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Pena, Jeffrey. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Interview". Curbs and Stoops. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Wooster Collective Interview". Retrieved 29 September 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  12. ^ Pena, Jeffrey. "Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada Interview". Curbs and Stoops. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Blackshaw, Ric; Farrelly, Liz (2008). The Street Art Book, 60 Artists in their own words. Harper Collins. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-06-153732-5. 
  14. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  15. ^ Maclean, Sarah. "Meet Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Flic Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  17. ^ a b Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  18. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  19. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  20. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  21. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  22. ^ Pena, Jeffery. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada, the A's to our Q's". Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Bello, Manuel. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Interview". Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  24. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 298. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  25. ^ Klein, Naomi (2010). No Logo. Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-00-734077-4. 
  26. ^ a b Bello, Manuel. "Interview with Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Reporter, Daily Mail (26 December 2010). "I'm going to need a bigger paintbrush: Artist's incredible portraits that are bigger than a football field". Daily Mail, online. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  28. ^ "Identity Series: Tina". Museum of Transitory Art. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  29. ^ Gavin, Frances (2007). Street Renegades, New Underground Art. London: Lawrence King publishing. pp. 92–95. ISBN 978 1 85669 529 9. 
  30. ^ Trippe, Johnny. "Identity(s): The Face of Badalona/ Composite Identity/ Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Fecal Face. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  31. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  32. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  33. ^ Daily Mail, Reporter (26 December 2010). "I'm going to need a bigger paintbrush: Artist's incredible portraits that are bigger than a football field". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  34. ^ a b Maclean, Sarah. "Meet Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". Flic Magazine. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  35. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  36. ^ News Reporter, Daily Mail (2010-12-26). "I'm going to need a bigger paintbrush: Artist's Incredible Portraits that are bigger than a football field". Daily Mail, online. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  37. ^ Bello, Manuel. "Jorge rodriguez Gerada Interview". Fecal Face. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  38. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Jorge Rodriguez Gerada. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  39. ^ -, Marc. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada's Tribute to Spanish Architect Enric Miralles". Wooster Collective. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  40. ^ News Reporter, Daily Mail (2010-12-26). "I'm going to need a bigger paintbrush: Artist's Incredible Portraits that are bigger than a Football field". Daily Mail online. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  41. ^ Zimmer, Lori. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada Uses The Earth as His Canvas For a Giant Portrait of President Obama". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  42. ^ Rodriguez Gerada, Jorge. "". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  43. ^ Powell, Nicole. "Fan Mail: Jorge Rodriguez Gerada". DailyServing. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  44. ^ Westwood, Vivienne (2011). 100 Days of Active Resistance. Bologne, Italy: Grafiche Damiane. pp. Day 96. 
  45. ^ Pasori, Sazan. "Jorge Rodriguez Gerada and Mama Cash Collaborate on Terrestrial Land Art Series". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  46. ^ Czeck, Jessica. "Dutch Promote Women's Rights with a massive portrait". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  47. ^ boy, sleep. "Streets: Jorge Rodriguez Gerada- 'Terrestrial Series- Mama Cash' (Amsterdam)". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  48. ^ Ferguson, Amanda (2013-10-18). "How Belfast got stuck into make artist Jorge Rodriguez Gerada's wish come true". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  49. ^ Northern Island, BBC. "Belfast Festival". BBC. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 


  • Blackshaw, Farrelly, Ric, Liz, The Street Art Book, 60 Artists in their own words, New York, Harper Collins, 2008
  • Gavin, Francesca, Street Renegades: New Underground Street Art, London, Lawrence King publishing Ltd, 2007
  • Klein, Naomi, No Logo, London, Fourth Estate, 2010
  • Scott, Thomas, Designing Obama: A Chronicle of Art and Design from the 2008 Presidential Campaign, U.S.A,, 2010,
  • Westwood, Vivienne, 100 Days of Active Resistance, Bologne, Grafiche Damiane, 2011

External links[edit]