Substitute for Love, 2023

Rodrigo Hernández, Substitute for Love, 2023; Oil on wood; 35 × 30 × 3 cm


In Substitute for Love, 2023, Rodrigo Hernández references the Harlow Experiments, one of the first psychological experiments investigating human love and affection through a series of controversial monkey experiments. This oil painting is a direct reference to one of the photos taken during the experiments in which a monkey is seen embracing a toy. A deeply touching experiment, the results speak a lot about motherhood, love, affection, and attachment but also point to the questionable morality of the use of animals in science and the principles we hold as humans to deal with otherness. 

This work is part of an ongoing series that will soon be shown at the artist’s solo exhibition at the ChertLüdde gallery in Berlin and at Wattis Art Institute in San Francisco, in which the artist focuses on the world of animal dreams, through scientific research, philosophical theories, and literary creations. Remaining largely unknown to human understanding, Hernández sees them as a mirror to our own lived experiences. Moreover, when we speak about animals some questions are raised about exploitation, the limits of language, and empathy.