In the center of Times Square’s urban landscape, Cuban-born artist Raúl Cordero creates an unexpected oasis — a 20-foot tower covered in a cascade of mountain laurel hosting an illuminated poem inside. The landscaped structure is designed to narrow the sensory overload of Times Square to a concentrated line of vision, drawing the eye to a patch of open sky and the words of the poem overhead. Playing with the architecture and energy of Times Square, Cordero offers us a respite from the attention economy in the form of poetry and nature.
Written by poet and educator Barry Schwabsky and created specifically for Cordero’s Times Square installation, the characters of the poem take shape through glowing bulbs of black light affixed to the interior of the foliage. The structure of the letters forces viewers to linger longer to receive the message — emblematic of Cordero’s ongoing investigation into effects of the digital age on the human mind, specifically our waning ability to focus and the increasing urge to relentlessly multitask.
Cordero’s project is also inspired by and dedicated to fellow Cuban and poet Reinaldo Arenas, an exile of the Cuban government who battled AIDS which led to death by suicide in 1990. As a child, Arenas would write poems while sitting in a tree, a pastime that inspired the height and foliage feel of Cordero’s installation. Arenas spent his final years as a creative in New York City, living only two blocks away from THE POEM’s location.
“It’s difficult to create meaningful art for people in an era when their attention is scattered across so many mediums and technologies simultaneously. THE POEM seeks to stop time, reminding us that humans also have the capacity to invest in one thing at a time — like listen to ‘the secret dialogue of trees’ (as put poetically by Reinaldo Arenas) and read a poem, even when standing in the center of Times Square.”
— Raúl Cordero
In conjunction with the project, Cordero will be presenting text-based video works across digital billboards, and free public programming on the ground featuring New York City’s diverse poetry community. Throughout the run of the exhibition, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Paolo Javier, Barry Schwabsky, and PEN America will each curate evenings of poetry readings and live performance celebrating THE POEM and local poets.
THE POEM coincides with Cordero’s solo show at Richard Taittinger Gallery, HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN THE MIND, on view through April 24.
THE POEM is commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and in part through support from Morgan Stanley, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
We are very pleased to share the official video for the unveiling Raúl Cordero’s installation THE POEM’s , in Times Square New York City. The unveiling took place at Duffy Square (Broadway and 46th Street) on April 8th, 2022, 2:00 pm.
We are pleased to announce THE POEM, the newest text based art installation by Raúl Cordero in collaboration with Barry Schwabsky, commissioned by Times Square Arts in New York City. THE POEM will unveil in Times Square on April 8th and will be on view until May 4th, 2022.
Richard Taittinger Gallery is pleased to announce the New York representation of Raúl Cordero (b. 1971) and present his first New York solo exhibition in almost fifteen years. This exhibition, HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN THE MIND, is based on 22 works (16 paintings, 2 installations and 4 NFTs and 1 limited edition RTG print) that demonstrate one’s understanding of our current society and how we obtain information through distracted elements and sated visuals.
We asked Cordero to tell us about his thrilling new work and upcoming exhibition:
“Every era has its own poetry. I am particularly interested in the poetry of this current era, where I live. We all write and publish constantly these days and type what we want in search boxes from food to transportation to dreams to sex — are we all poets for this? For me, this newfound poetry expands into hashtags, acronyms and gender pronouns; all tools that we use to communicate with each other. It brings curiosity towards platforms, such as Google, that have indexed life through text, according to its own algorithms and interests. Through the works in this exhibition, I recount TALES FROM AN INDEXED WORLD, as well as my own assumption that today’s REALITY IS THE NEW SPAM. Finding out in the end that HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN THE MIND, which is probably the closest I have been able to attain a set conclusion with my contemplative attitude towards life.”
This exhibition is structured in three sections starting with the anterior of the gallery, TALES FROM AN INDEXED WORLD. A series of paintings that explore how our world has become indexed through algorithms and platforms such as Google. As an amusing experiment, Cordero uses his search results from typing “THE” into a search engine to create his potent yet poetic text within the paintings. REALITY IS THE NEW SPAM, is the second series of collections located in the gallery’s mezzanine. A collection of square framed black and white filtered paintings that lay dimensionless underneath voluminous and vivid shapes. These paintings are Cordero’s understanding of our new reality — a hyperstimulated and highly active environment. It is his impression of an “obstructed reality” where you cannot clearly see what’s behind the shapes but the painting isn’t fully blocked either. Lastly, HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN THE MIND is a collection all about light. Similar to traditional painting techniques, Cordero uses light source as a focal point to compare euphoric feelings to our societal dream of being the greatest, the fastest or the richest. With our accessibility to technology, we have adapted a “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality; always searching for the best and not so much existing in the present. Cordero’s finale powerfully retorts that the real heaven is all about the state of your mind. The series is intentionally placed in the rear side of the gallery.
Cordero’s “style” is more than the stroke of a brush or a preferred color palette; it’s an anti-style. He uses anti-typography, the infamous gold-dotted symbols, to create a language that is cryptic in its message. Contrasted by the blurred images, there is a sense of juxtaposed embossment with the anti-typography, evoking a stronger focus when perceived. Through he evolving digital era, people tend to accurately focus if there is a sense of multitasking; Raúl Cordero’s work is the epitome of this belief. With his trickery at play, overstimulated images and enigmatic signage causes the viewer to not only intently focus but to take a moment and feel his words instead of computing them.
“Art isn’t a message, it’s an emotion. If the emotion isn’t there, then the message or idea won’t be either.”
Cordero uses “three ranges” to perform his poetry: (a) wide-open spaces such as scenic landscapes, (b) things and people such as lighting, interior, and portraits, (c) assimilated versions of quantum space such as ether and energetic vibration; paired all together they blend the conceptional with the technical. His technique extends homage to spatial awareness, as humans, we tend to give attention to what we see and little to what we don’t see. Cordero curiously plays with the oscillating relationships of communication: image and text, positive space and negative space, film and video, ether and electricity, traditional and modern.
While manipulating images, mischievously sculpting acronym fixtures, and painting with contemporary colors, Cordero represents the current state of reality. After an invitation to publish a collection with Nifty Gateway in 2020, he started to produce NFT artworks on platforms, Nifty Gateway and Rarible, which are a one-of-a-kind virtual collectibles. In 2021, Cordero started making NFT artworks for Richard Taittinger Gallery. His NFTs connect his work in painting, video and installations with his lifelong digital production. Raúl Cordero states, “Art should document the zeitgeist of its time” and he has successfully done so.
Alongside HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN THE MIND, Raúl Cordero’s is having his first solo interactive exhibition, THE POEM, with Barry Schwabsky in Times Square on March 24 – April 24, 2022, in collaboration with Rockefeller Foundation and The Cuban Artists Fund. The public art installation is dedicated to the memory of Cuban Writer Reinaldo Arenas, a poet and rebel to the Cuban government.