Thursday | 04 December, 2014 | 2:21 pm

Three-dimensional graffiti

By Emily Vasquez

Graffiti artist turned welder creates futuristic metal sculptures

December 2014 - Graffiti: Known to city dwellers as an eyesore and to law enforcement as vandalism. For Carlos Rodriguez, it is a creative outlet. Known as Mare on the streets of New York City, Rodriguez is a seasoned professional in the notorious world of street art.

Drawn to this alternative lifestyle at a young age, his career spans over 30 years, during which time he crafted a style that won him recognition and many awards. Rodriguez’s knack for creating vibrant, vivid 2-D works led to a yearning to explore other avenues. His pursuit for an alternative medium led him to metal. That material allows him to leverage the intricate graffiti techniques into three-dimensional sculptures that aren’t possible with flat wall space.


“I consider myself Renaissance Man,” says Rodriguez. “In my lifetime I have been in the arts in many capacities, as practitioner, collector, advocate, scholar, teacher, curator and even U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassador.” 

Rodriguez began working with metal in 1985, up on a rooftop in South Bronx, New York, with nothing but a few sheets of galvanized steel and a vision to encapsulate graffiti writing and modern art. A pioneer of the golden era of graffiti, Rodriguez spent 10 years embellishing train cars, underpasses and blank walls before starting to sculpt. “It was out of creative necessity and a need to move beyond painting into the physical space.”  


Rodriguez traded in his spray cans for a welder’s helmet. “My relationship to materials is akin to magic, to making something appear from nothing. Not to imply that it’s easy but it’s a wonderful process and challenge to use metals that may not be forgiving or are too rigid.” 

Rodriguez uses multiple disciplines to fabricate his sculptures, including flame cutting, plasma, waterjet and laser cutting. Most of his work is unplanned; instead he cuts out shapes and small models. “The process is emotional, intellectual and intuitive. Since metal has unlimited characters, I can either be exact or have really great accidents. This informs the outcome.” 


One of Rodriguez’s latest pieces, Wind of the Whirling Dervish (pictured above), was built from cold-rolled carbon steel and stainless steel sheet. He incorporated the arrow, iconic in style writing (which is an elaborate form of graffiti), then employed laser cutting and bending to allow for “light to breathe through the sculpture and create fantastic shadows.” 

Rodriguez’s work has taken him all over the world, most recently to the Pera Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, for the Language of the Wall, Graffiti/Street Art exhibition, featuring graffiti artists from the U.S. and Europe in an effort to “bring the street to the museum.” 

Since his early days of metalworking, Rodriguez has advanced his technique to reflect Cubism and futuristic pieces, drawing influence from acclaimed artists Julio Gonzalez and Pablo Picasso. MM

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