Emory Report

April 24, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 30

Professor debuts artwork

By Eric Rangus

Carlos Rojas made his mark at Emory as a professor of Spanish literature. But it's his other interests, specifically art, that Emory gets to sample as a collection of his collages, "Homages and Scribbles: The Presence of Poetry in Art," opened April 14 in the Schatten Gallery of Woodruff Library. The exhibit is free and will run through May 30.

Rojas, who joined the faculty in 1960, is Candler Professor of Spanish Literature, Emeritus. He held that professorship for 16 years until his retirement in 1996. Rojas has authored more than 30 books, and his novel Auto de Fe won Spain's National Prize for Literature in 1968. He has created collages in his spare time for the past 20 years, and his work is in private collections on three continents.

Speaking to an intimate gathering at the exhibit opening, Rojas discussed a meeting in the 1950s with the Spanish artist and teacher Fransesc Galí. One of his students was the noted Spanish artist Joan Miró, who was a pupil in the years during World War I.

Rojas discussed how Galí would incorporate music and poetry into his teaching of painting. He asked Galí his opinion of Miró and, as related by Rojas, the response was, "I managed to teach him more poetry than painting."

"That's when I started preparing this exhibit in the back of my unconscious," Rojas said.

Rojas' work is unique in that his collages use the names of great artists (the Homages) and the words of poets and authors (the Scribbles) as integral parts of the work.

Indeed, the name of the person honored by each Homage is prominently featured in the collage. Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Anton Van Dyck are three of the 12 subjects of Rojas' Homages. The content of the work--its color, style and materials--is built around the name.

Through his Scribbles, Rojas said, he seeks to explore the presence of poetry in art rather than the conventional view of art in poetry. Rojas described both the Homages and Scribbles as "ekphrastic," which is a mix of art and poetry. He said the most famous example was John Keats' poem Ode to a Grecian Urn.

The core of each of Rojas' Scribbles is a poetic quotation. And he honors a wide range of writers from a variety of time periods. Included are: Shakespeare ("Nothing that is so is so"), Lord Byron ("Summer's indeed a very dangerous season"), Dante Alighieri ("Abandon all hope, you who entered") and Dorothy Parker ("One of you is lying"), along with seven others.

"I take the name of a well-known artist and use the name as if it were part of an ekphrastic experiment," he said.

The mixed-media collages are primarily oils, but Rojas also uses objects such as lace (to give a Victorian air), as well as pictures of artists' works clipped from magazines or newspapers. He began producing the 23 works on display in 1997.

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