Eye Weekly Review: “Hidden Secrets” by David Balzer
Those who admire Soulpepper’s impeccable taste in illustrators — and who, in general, lament the lost art of the graphically engaging playbill and poster — will want to check out Lonsdale Gallery’s latest exhibition by Edel Rodriguez, who did terrific work for the theatre company’s 2008 season. Rodriguez is not from Toronto (a disappointment, given his style’s affinity with that of many local, lower-profile illustrators) but was born in Havana and currently resides in New Jersey. His birthplace is present in an array of works hanging in the gallery’s second level, next to mock-ups of the Soulpepper posters. (The polished versions are on the first floor.)
The Havana works testify, as do the posters, to Rodriguez’s love of mid-20th-century American commercial illustration — all dynamic, jazzy lines and bright colours. The Chevy- and Ché-heavy scenes suggest picture-postcard views of the city (many of these pieces were part of a 2006 TIME feature), but are nonetheless infectiously jubilant. Most are on scraps of paper and displayed unframed, salon-style, as if ripped from Rodriguez’s sketchbook. He applies pastel and ink casually, smudging them to convey the motions of bodies dancing or whizzing by on motorbikes. In fact, the series is largely about couples — their inherent poetry, their subtle behavioural rifts, their celebrations.