By Ruby Bracher
Reniel Del Rosario is a senior majoring in Art Practice at UC Berkeley! He is a first-generation immigrant and grew up locally in the Bay Area since his big move at four year old. He’s also the instructor of the Natural Pigments in the Modern World DeCal, which I highly recommend.
You can find his work at the Berkeley Biennial exhibition at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery from Wednesday, November 7th to Thursday, November 15th, or on renieldelrosario.com or @adrenieline on Instagram.
Can you start by talking a bit about the art you make?
Right now the sort of stuff I do is make stores, and then I sell replications of objects out of those stores. A lot of my work is based off of the act of selling rather than the object that I make. This is called Social Practice, and it consists of a lot of working with people, so it’s art not in the sense that I’ve replicated an object, but the fact that I’m able to sell these objects to these people.
What drew you to Social Practice?
It was this trajectory, where in my sophomore year Ceramics class, I did this project where I sold ceramic fruits and vegetables at a convention. I was just carrying a box of apples, onions, avocados, and stuff like that from gallery to gallery, and people were like, what the fuck is going on? They recognized me because I went there for three days straight. I guess I looked back at it last year, like, that was fun selling stuff; just seeing what people would buy, and then reflecting on what they bought.
Oh yeah — and the fruits and vegetables were like, the price of produce at a farmers’ market. A lot of it was about selling for the real price (not “artist” price) and having people react.
A year later, I started doing a food store, because the last summer I had worked at a candy shop and I was inspired to make a lot of candy, donuts, and stuff like that. I started noticing that people were really drawn to these things, and I thought, huh, I could sell this. So then, I started making a storefront for that which traveled from Cal Day, to the San Francisco Art Institute, to the ceramics convention for three days.
Now I’m making a Filipino store and I’m making an art store, so each store has its own theme, but in general it’s just about selling these objects and reflecting on people buying them.
Are there any projects that you’re working on right now that you’re excited about?
Yeah! On November 7th, there is going to be the opening of my art show, which is what the Filipino store and art store are for.
I’ve been making a lot of objects for the Filipino store that are controversial in a way, that are embedded within Filipino culture, and modeling the storefront off of the sari sari stores put up in front of family homes. I’m selling cigarettes, because a lot of my family in the Philippines smoke a pack a day. I grew up with my dad smoking a pack a day in the garage.
There’s also canned food being implemented after American colonization. Canned food is a very big thing in our diets, and it’s very bad for us; there are a lot of statistics showing that after that implementation, cancer skyrocketed. I had family that got blood cancers, and diabetes runs in both sides of the family because of the saturated fat and high sugar content in that diet.
There’s the bootleg culture, too, so I’m selling bootleg dvds out of there—they’re ceramic, so they’re not functional. None of them are functional, none of them should be functional; they should have a humor to them.
For the art store, I’m selling a bunch of art supplies for the price of art supplies, so I can buy those same art supplies. It’s a cyclical nature.
What art or artists inspire you?
The main person that inspired me to start the storefronts was Claes Oldenburg. Before he started doing factory made art (like the gigantic bow and arrow in San Francisco, or the cherry on top of a spoon in Minneapolis), he did a bunch of plaster work that was sloppy as hell, but it was interesting because he sold it for the price of the actual objects, too. He had a store, with this representation of 7-Up, being sold for the price of 7-Up, when in reality it’s just messy, slathered, plaster that looks pretty much like a compacted car with a 7up logo on it. And people buy this stuff, which says a lot about consumerism and what people are willing to buy.
Other people that inspire me within the faculty are Ehren Tool, a ceramicist in the ceramics department, because he is a maker. He’s made, like, 20,000 cups and I think I want to make 20,000 of something eventually. I like multiplicity.
What would you want to make 20,000 of?
20,000 sold objects. I’m at about 300 right now. So maybe I’m getting close? Not really, but, I’m on my way.
Has your artistic perspective been influenced by your time at Berkeley? If so, how?
I came into Berkeley thinking I was gonna be a graphic designer, and I didn’t. The first semester I was here, I wasn’t able to enroll in Art Practice classes, so I was trying to be self-sufficient and was doing album covers for local rappers, because that was the graphic design at the time, but I didn’t really like it, so I gave that up and got back into painting.
Next semester, I tried to sign up for the painting class and it was full, so I was like, fuck fuck fuck what do I do? I signed up for anything and I got into a ceramics class, and ever since ceramics has been a part of my work. I can’t think of doing anything else.
I think the main influence Berkeley has had is that they are very rooted in conceptualism, there is less focus on how fine-crafted your stuff is, they care about the content behind it. I think that’s what pushed me — I remember when I first came here, I was a bullshit abstract painter from high school. When I look back at my high school work, I’m very glad that concept was taught to me and not just technique, because I think I would make stuff with no meaning.
What classes offered by the Art Practice department would you recommend taking?
Definitely take Ceramics, or take Craig Nagasawa’s class (ART 160 : Ancient Pigments and Contemporary Drawing Practices), which is the whole natural pigments class that my DeCal is based off of. It’s really interesting to have people make their own supplies versus going to the store and buying things. You go to any art class and they’re like, “Here’s a supplies list! Here’s a materials list!”, then you walk into Craig’s class and you’re told, “Find a rock.” It makes people shift from their usual methods.
How do you recommend students interested (but maybe not majoring) in art get involved with the arts community at Cal?
There are definitely a lot of organizations that can help you get involved. You can look into DeCals (like this one!), or you can go to the ASUC, which also has art classes that are a little less structured — they don’t meet 2 times a week for three hours. There are also organizations such as Cal CREATE, that let people teach visual arts, theatre, dance, creative writing, and stuff like that. There is a huge abundance of groups out there that do let you pursue your own creative passions.
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