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October 22 - December 23, 2005 at Koplin Del Rio Gallery, West Hollywood

by John O'Brien

The strange and intricate hybrid art works of Einar and Jamex de la Torre, are best appreciated for their outrageous sense of style surfing and intense cargo cult cultural foraging. If you are already a fan, their latest exhibition, “Folkloric Acid: Blown Glass and Mixed Media Sculpture” will prove equally as pleasurable to explore. Their blown glass and mixed media works splice categories from first contact--in the title: Folkloric Acid. This neologism has roots in the words for a corrosive chemical, hydrochloric acid, which is combined with the notion of quaint traditionalism. Mining fresh territory that is opened up by combining critical thinking and the traditions of Mexican arts and crafts is precisely what the pair of brothers is up to.

By couching their visual explorations in the relatively specialized field of glass blowing, the de la Torre brothers reference the functional and historical traces of that genre. Yet their insertion of many found objects in the finished work, such as old liquor bottles and distressed toy cars, makes for works of art that fold back on the cultural spheres in which each of these kinds of things are normally encountered. The juxtaposing of glass, with its crystalline qualities, and the found materials, with their embedded histories and worn surfaces, allow for a credible fusion of “high” and “low” culture. From Buddha, to stylized Mayan and Aztec artifacts, to effigies of Catholic origin, the de la Torres indeed fashion what has been described as a “neo-baroque cornucopia” for the visitor. Add to that a decidedly wacky sense of humor and you really do get some folkloric acid trips.

“Frutera,” is a mixture is between a Day of the Dead half skeleton, which comes with all the loopy comedy of popular craft and a European tradition. These crouched bones are literally topped off with the kind of ornate, perforated, decorative bowl derived from Italian Murano glasswork, turning that high craft tradition into a kind of tropical headdress. Like most of their artwork, the inherent criticality of crossbreeding these styles and cultural pools isn’t so much directed to the viewer with the intent to modify the order of these hierarchies. It is brought to the fore simply to be noticed. It is a mock serious game in which the de la Torres prod your visceral reaction rather than make an analytical appraisal.

“Frutera,” 2000, blown
glass, 18 x 14 x 14”.

“RuletAzteca”, 2004, blown
glass, 45” x 45” x 11”.

“Pulkera”, 2000, blown glass,
20 1/2” x 10 1/2” x 10 1/2”.

In the “Diablo Bust Series” stylistic combinations run between the kind of monsters you might find in Chinese mythology or parades, and Mediter-ranean motifs such as Italian playing cards and classical columns. Add to this a faux time bomb in an ocean setting and you can begin to see how ‘bust’ oscillates between functioning as a verb or a noun. By all means reflect on the effects of this odd cultural diffusion/explosion as you view these works.

Among the titles for the work there is a grand variety of language hybrids. Their use of newly coined words mirror the kind of patterns set up by their quirky patchwork of mythology, language, religion and contemporary art world reference. The de la Torre brothers are intent on inventing their own borderline cultural identity, and then fusing it into a singular collaborative entity. This aspect of their work reflects a spirit of bricolage that separates them from other generations of assemblage artists who traveled along analogous trajectories. It is almost as though Einar and Jamex de la Torre are trying to set a stage where the viewer really draws the conclusions entirely, without even the singular identity of an artist to reconstruct the intentions. Adrift in a sea of threatening, if amusing objects, you have to hold the contradictions together on your own and concoct your own language to decipher it.