Rolando Peña


The Banana of God






75 x 100 cm


Digitized photographic collage

Credits: Collection of the artist. Image courtesy of the artist

In 1975, US-based Venezuelan artist Rolando Peña first exhibited his Santería series at the Bogarin Workshop Gallery in New York and the Contemporary Art Museum in Caracas. In Santería, Rolando Peña worked with Christian and African religious iconography, iconic works from art history, and references to popular culture. This iconographic syncretism was treated with bright colors and flat figures, reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s pop art (Peña’s mentor and friend). The works, ironic and playful, reflected on the mysticism surrounding the contemporary media imaginary and explored the boundaries between the popular and the cultured, the real and the fantastical. Ten years later, Santería inspired The Banana God, in which religious references merge with the theme of oil, which has been at the core of Peña’s work since the 1970s. In The Banana God, oil and bananas make up a religious syncretism, as occurs, for example, with Christianity and Afro-descendant religions in the Caribbean. Here, two natural elements, one belonging to the plant kingdom and the other to the mineral kingdom, are the protagonists of the violent history of neo-colonialism suffered by Latin America. Peña denounces the exploitation of these resources and bananas and oil as the gods of the extractive capitalism exerted by the United States in the region.