Best Local Artist - 2006
Norberto "Bert" Rodriguez
"This is my statement/Sometimes cartoons make me cry/I am an artist." Say what? Some people have a difficult time folding their noggins around Rodriguez's approach to making art. Like his inscrutable haiku, his works can seem like those cookie fortunes that leave you scratching your head and pondering the content for days. The New World Art School grad has been stymieing the public since he bolted out of the gate with his first solo show, "A Pre-Career Retrospective," featuring drawings, paintings, and objects from his childhood. Rodriguez also once had himself followed by a private eye and then exhibited the investigator's documentation. For an early solo at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, which reps him, he packed the space with furniture he crafted and then hired a feng shui master to arrange it. During his solo show at Snitzer's during Art Basel 2004, he filled the gallery with conceptual odes to failed relationships, including a pair of mannequins on the verge of duking it out (now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art), and capped off the evening with a mariachi band he taught to sing punk-rock tunes. A squadron of international collectors and curators swarmed the event like bees to a honeycomb. The Kemper Museum of Art, the Rubell Family Collection, and the Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz Collection are among those that scooped up his stuff. Some of his recent work includes a neon reminder that the grim reaper is always knocking at the door, and a series of photographs in which he appears as a bearded Castro-like revolutionary in one panel, sports a Pancho Villa handlebar mustache in another, and wears Hitler lip lint in the last, milking beaucoup mileage out of his chin fur. Perhaps the pan of chocolate chip cookies he frosted with his name and phone number while fishing for a date with a girl he didn't know, and then subsequently photographed and titled "You're Just a Friend I Haven't Met," best captures his appeal. We can't think of anyone else in town with the chutzpah to pawn cookies off as art. But you know what? Bert did and ended up with the girl.