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“The Joy of Exile,” Rojas’s painting installation festooned with wall drawings, has the quality of a fever dream: roiling color and gesture. Violent imagery leavened with pop culture references. Incantatory text.
The piece tells the tale of migration. Rojas calls it “a celebration of human mobility.” The painter was born in El Salvador, and his mother moved the family to San Francisco when he was small.
The installation doesn’t take for granted the devastation of being uprooted. The first image is of a corn kernel before its propulsive pop.
Rojas’s paintings sprang from his sketchbooks, where he poured his art before he had a studio. “This gave birth to that,” he says, showing off a sketchbook version of the painting “Son,” which features a broken tree, a clown swinging on gymnastic rings, Mayan numerology, and Central American birds.
“Some of it is ambiguous for me,” Rojas admits. “There are moments in the creation where I’ve completely submitted to the process. The challenge has always been to put the books on the canvas. I think I’ve arrived at that.”