In 1984, when Utah artist Horacio Rodriguez was in the fifth grade, he got a boombox for Christmas.
“At that time, when boomboxes were really prevalent and popular, they were these devices that could disrupt the space,” Rodriguez said. “The boombox has traditionally been like this object that can be brought into a space and disrupts what’s happening by the way it projects sound and can play a message.”
As NPR eulogized in 2009, “the boxes had to be big, to make that bass boom.”
Now, 39 years after he got his first boombox, Rodriguez is using the briefcase-sized stereo system — and that idea of resonant disruption — in a benefit auction.
Or, at least, copies of it.
In his first mass-scale exhibit as a curator, happening at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Rodriguez has given 3D casts of the boombox — based on a mold he made of his original boombox in grad school — to 10 local artists, each to make their own.
(Molds are a recurring technique for Rodriguez, who utilized them in a 2022 show at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.)
On a cast called “Rainmaker,” Jiyoun Lee-Lodge stenciled waves of water over a orange-to-blue gradient. On “Haunted by Nostalgia,” by Andrew Rice covered the casting with a carefully curated collage made entirely from cutout scraps of comic books. Vicky Lowe’s “Every Cave has its Jaguar” is an explosion of acrylic color, fit with a poem in Spanish.
“Most of them are 2D artists,” Rodriguez said. “The really cool thing is that they’re all so different and unique, and they all kind of have their own different personalities.”
Rodriguez chronicled each artist’s process on his Instagram account.
Rodriguez’ own boombox is painted white, with florals, gold accents like dollar signs and with two clenched fists in chains over the front speaker ports. The work is titled “(Why can’t we) Be Free.”
The 10 artists (Lilian Agar, Andrew Alba, Fidalis Buehler, Hazel Rodriguez Coppola, Miguel Galaz, Lee-Lodge, Lowe, Jorge Rojas, Rice and Rodriguez) each have picked a nonprofit organization to support through the sale of their boombox.
Those organizations include: Restoring Ancestral Winds, Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives, The Refuge Utah, The Peace House, Utah Clean Cities, Save Our Great Salt Lake, Latino Behavioral Health Services, Friends of Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake Community Bail Fund and Artes de Mexico en Utah.
Rodriguez said all the organizations are meaningful, but it’s extra important to artists that have personal connections to their chosen organizations — which support such causes as saving the Great Salt Lake and domestic violence awareness.
The exhibit will be on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts, 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, through Saturday, April 22, which is when the auction will take place. All the bidding is online (starting at $4,000 a box) — and of the final amount raised, 50% will go to artists and the other half to their organizations. People can also donate to the organizations separately.