Malte Rauch: Juan, how did you get started in generative art?
Juan Rodríguez García: My professional background is in architecture and my first contact with code-based work occurred in 3D modeling. There was a plug-in for the Rhino software environment called Grasshopper, which really got me started in creative coding. Once I had tinkered a little bit with architectural models and sketches, I began sharing it on social media.
My early sketches had no function. Their sole purpose was visual pleasure. The practice was fundamentally different from my work as an architect. Following my initial work with Grasshopper, I wanted to focus more on pure programming and I found that I could write Python code within the Rhino environment. That was where I really learned to code. Eventually, I found Processing and I immediately realized that it was the right tool for me.
Architecture led me to code and code led me to art. Looking back, this trajectory seems inevitable. Even in architecture, I was mostly interested in the abstract design process. Translating a design into a building was only of secondary importance to me.
With Processing, I began to really lean into that interest and started to teach creative coding at the local university. My classes are based on p5.js. The job is perfect for me — it actually never felt like “work.” This semester, I also started to give a class with blender software focused on special effects design.
MR: How would you describe the generative art scene in Mexico and how is it pereceived among your students?
JRG: In Mexico City, there are many great artists working with generative processes. Not all of them are focused on producing on-chain generative art. My personal situation has always been somewhat different. Since I didn’t grow up in Mexico City, I was always on the periphery of the cultural scene. I grew up and lived for most of my life in the city of Veracruz, which is in the south of the country, close to the Gulf of Mexico. Five years ago, I moved to Puebla, where I currently live, which is located in the center of the country.
In Puebla, I started to teach classes at the university, where I tried to give generative art greater visibility and convey my excitement about creative coding.
NFTs are something that my students have heard about, but don’t fully grasp yet. It is a new dimension of creation and a new way of thinking that interests them but it is not always immediately accessible to them. The culture of the NFT space and the possibilities that come along with it is something that I hope to bring closer to my students as well. Finally, there is the global community of generative artists that is connected via social media. Three or four years ago, I didn’t even know about it. Now, I am connected with many outstanding generative artists from all around the world and it is quite beautiful to be part of this scene.
MR: What are the main inspirations for your work as an artist?
JRG: At the beginning, my inspirations were almost exclusively drawn from architecture. I have been trained in the field and my first sketches were abstract shapes reminiscent of architecture. When I discovered Processing and the concept of generative art, I became fascinated with the work of Manolo [Gamboa Naon]. Recreating his works became a very inspiring challenge for me. It defined my daily practice.
Moreover, all of my early works were monochromatic — they were so inspired by the aesthetic of architectural sketches that I didn’t explore color at all. But Manolo’s work really opened my eyes to color compositions. So I would say that the formal language of architecture and the work of Manolo have been — and indeed continue to be — the main influences on my work. But the more code-based art I produced, the more I became interested in all forms of art.
A particularly inspiring reference that I discovered in my research is Manuel Felguerez’s project, The Aesthetic Machine (1975). He was the first Mexican artist to work with an algorithm to create generative compositions.
MR: What are you working on for “NFT ART CDMX”?
JRG: My project can be approached from two angles: the first is quite personal. Earlier this year, I was working on a long-form project — an abstract color composition that posed many challenges for me. It was a great learning experience, but, eventually, I abandoned it and began to look for something new. I began working on an algorithm that evolved over a period of a month or so, which developed in quite an organic fashion. Every day I added new elements and ideas to the algorithm, making changes to the composition but without a specific goal or purpose in mind.
One night, just before being contacted by Seth from Bright Moments, I sketched something that really caught my attention and seemed like a perfect fit. It felt very natural. I had started working on this new long-form project and then this amazing opportunity suddenly opened up. The second angle is aesthetic and pertains to the setting of the event.
It’s very special that “NFT ART CDMX” is happening in our country. If you explore the markets and streets of Mexico, you will find a colorful chaos. My project is a tribute to this colorful culture.
Like a Mexican city, it consists of layer upon layer of different colors superimposed over each other, producing a chaotic interplay. You can immerse yourself in its details and structure.
MR: That’s amazing. How do you plan to install the work at Prim?
JRG: My work will be installed at the entrance to the venue, which is ideal for what I have in mind. There is a long passage that leads to the common area at Prim. It is here that I plan to translate the five layers of my generative system into an installation. I want to find a way to make the structure of the algorithm accessible to the audience. Five screens or projectors will display the individual layers of the piece, such that the composition of the algorithmic system really defines the construction of the installation. The way people will flow through the installation is designed to recall the experience of discovering a city.
You will be able to walk through the layers of the algorithm in the same way that you would stroll through the colorful chaos in the streets of a Mexican city.
MR: The last two years have changed the field of generative art significantly. Where do you see the space headed and what are your plans for the future?
JRG: It’s hard to say where generative art is headed. Personally, I don’t focus too much on the future. I really enjoy my work with code, and, more than anything, I want to retain my excitement for creative coding. Working with code keeps me busy. It distracts me when I am in a bad mood and it relaxes me on stressful days. Going forward, I want to keep creating and enjoying art. That’s my main goal, regardless of whatever comes my way. One thing that I am especially excited about is building and maintaining relationships with the generative art community.
Growing up outside of the cultural center has always placed me at the periphery. But by connecting with fellow generative artists from around the world over the last two years, I feel that I have become part of an amazing global community.
The dialogues we’ve had within this community have been immensely enriching for me, both personally and artistically. So while I’m not too focused on specific goals in my art, I am focused on connecting with people and maintaining my relationships in the generative art space.
Juan Rodríguez García is a generative artist. His work explores design concepts and programming through code as a tool of creation and expression. He teaches classes in creative coding at Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla and has worked and collaborated with different universities and cultural spaces in Latin America to address art, code, and technology.