Arts Month: Brothers find inspiration on both sides of border
By James Chute, UNION-TRIBUNE
Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 11:26 p.m.
Einar de la Torre was trying to find a way to describe what he and his brother do.“We wear a lot of hats,” he finally said.
Einar and his brother, Jamex de la Torre, typically use a lot of humor, but in this instance they weren’t kidding.If you had
to label them, you’d probably call them sculptors — and glass blowers, craftsmen, painters, folk artists and conceptual artists,
and that’s just for starters. Then there’s the Mexican and American element.
“We were even in a Chicano exhibition, which we really aren’t,” Einar said. “We’re Mexican, and we became American, but we
never grew up Chicano. But we appreciate the Chicano aesthetic.” Looking at their gleaming, eclectic sculptures (or whatever
you want to call them), you wonder if there’s anything the brothers don’t appreciate. Their works have references ranging from
American kitsch to European history. There are skulls and corporate logos, human hearts and cartoon figures. There’s Our Lady of Guadalupe and pre-Columbian deities. There are the past and present presidents of Mexico and Elvis.
“We sort of have too many interests to just peg us,” said Einar. “The people that say, ‘How do you describe your work?’ I say, ‘Which one?’ ”
Both Einar and Jamex de la Torre see the art scene in San Diego as constantly shifting, but for their tastes, still underdeveloped.
“The scene in San Diego, it’s more about the friends of ours, people like Brian Dick and Roman de Salvo, a group of artists we’ve sort of been in shows with here and there,” said Einar. “On that level, being in San Diego influences our work; but more than anything, the reason we are in San Diego is proximity to our Mexican studio, and that, I think, has to do with the border and very dynamic situation the border offers, sometimes good, and sometimes bad.”
As winners of the 2010 San Diego Art Prize, their works will be evident at the upcoming Art San Diego International Art Fair. But their pieces can also be seen throughout the region, whether in front of the Caltrans District 11 office in Old Town or on exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art (through Oct. 31).
“We’ve been in San Diego long enough to see the ebb and flow of the galleries,” Einar said. “We used to be represented by the Porter-Troupe gallery, back when Margaret and Quincy were part of San Diego. Since they left for New York, we don’t really have a San Diego gallery.”
They are primarily represented by the Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Los Angeles, where they open a solo show on Sept. 11 (they will also be on exhibit at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum starting Sept. 25). Their business offices, shipping and refurbishment operations, and a small workshop are in Paradise Hills in San Diego, and their primary studios are in San Antonio de la Minas in Baja California. They travel back and forth, living in both places.
“We enjoy making work in a secluded situation,” Einar said. “Especially with the Internet and everything, you don’t really need to feel the pulse of a thriving, throbbing city, I don’t think. Some people do; they need to feed off the energy. We’re OK; we like San Diego, we like the situation here. It’s pretty mellow, really.”
The brothers moved to Orange County from Guadalajara in 1972, eventually studying art at California State University Long Beach. After college, they operated their own flame-worked glass figure business before finding a way to support themselves with their art.
They still love to work with glass, largely, they said, because of the spontaneous nature of it and the immediacy of the finished product. And working with glass taught them to work with each other.
“Glass blowing is a very collaborative craft, at least it should be,” Jamex said. “Because it’s much more enjoyable when you have two people working. And we pretty much learned to blow glass together.”Now, each of their art works is a collaborative effort, with them tossing ideas back and forth, making preliminary sketches together, and each contributing parts to a seamless whole.“We’ve been doing it for a while and I think it works because we have complementary characters, complementary abilities,” Jamex said. “I tend to be much more of a builder and a sculptor, and he tends be much more of a painter and involved in graphics. But we wouldn’t do it together if we didn’t honestly believe it makes it better work.”
Much of their work has obvious political, social and cultural overtones, but they insist they aren’t trying to preach to anyone. And as for the humor, they hope that’s a way to get viewers to engage with the work.“In other words, we don’t want it to be like a one-liner, ha ha, they get it and walk away,” Einar said. “Our intention is to use humor as a hook to get you to stick with it a little longer and maybe enjoy other aspects of the work. We see our work very much like an onion: There are layers to peel off and to keep exploring, avenues of consideration, if you will.”