Collidoscope: de la Torre Retro-Perspective
"Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective" brings together a selection of works that are representative of the artistic and exploratory trajectory of Einar and Jamex de la Torre. Einar and Jamex were born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1963 and 1960, respectively, but they have navigated life on both sides of the boarder since they were very young. Due to their bi-national and bi-cultural background, their work has been interpreted through the lenses of boarder art and Chicano art for the past couple of decades. The brothers use an array of materials and techniques that range from the mastering of glass blowing to the more recent practice of lenticular printing, signalling to an interest in technology and popular mass-produced objects.
About the de la Torre Brothers
Brothers Jamex and Einar de la Torre are artists who revel in their artistic freedom, defying limitations and categorizations others may place upon them. Their work spans mediums—glass, resin, lenticular, material culture, and more. The brothers’ artworks combine ancient iconography with symbols of our contemporary consumer culture, play with humor and irony, mesh experiences from both sides of the U.S. Mexico Border, and challenge our expectations of art and beauty. The traveling exhibition, "Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective," sponsored in part by the National Museum of the American Latino showcases three decades of the brothers’ work. In this virtual exhibition you can explore the brothers’ work through their voices.
Often the work of the de la Torre brothers defies prescriptive categories and expectations, and the brothers like it that way. While others may try to categorize their work, the bothers resist this urge. “And to be pegged to an identity can itself be a limiting factor in your career,” declared Jamex. “But at some point, we decided to stop worrying about that, to stop because it doesn't really matter that much. And we have been in exhibitions that pegs us as California artists, Mexican artists, glass artists, Chicano artist, and it's all okay by us.”
In describing themselves and their practice, “and” is the operative word. Einar and Jamex are conceptual artists and talented makers, they are Mexican and American, they are glass blowers and resin casters, experts in photoshop and lenticular creators. Their multifaceted talents and their insistence on their creative and artistic freedom make the brothers’ work incredibly vibrant and energetic. We can see this freedom in action when viewing the brothers’ artworks. Their artworks are unashamedly baroque, maximalist, vibrant, and toy with perceptions of high and low art, challenging us to re-evaluate our understandings of beauty and good taste.
Einar and Jamex were born in Guadalajara Mexico and immigrated to Dana Point California in 1972. Jamex recollected, “And so we grew up on both sides. And that greatly informs the way we think and the way we collaborate.” Growing up in California and experiencing both sides of the border profoundly impacted the brothers as they experienced a culture shock moving from, as Einar remembered, “an all-boys catholic school” in Mexico to “hot pants and miniskirts” in Southern California.
Their early experiences with culture clash carries into their works as they mesh the indigenous iconography they experienced in their youth, such as the ubiquitous Aztec calendar, with contemporary iconographies of consumer and pop culture common in both Mexico and the U.S. “We like to say, we enjoy looking at one culture from the other point of view,“ explained Einar. Einar and Jamex’s transnational experiences enable them to question, critique, and investigate society and culture on both sides of the border– an ability shared by many immigrants and residents of the U.S. Mexico borderlands.
Artistic thinking was something that came naturally to the brothers. “My whole life as a kid I had modeling clay.” recalled Jamex, “I was always making stuff three dimensionally and I always liked to construct things. My father was an architect, so the idea of building things … was very much a natural ingrained way to think.” In high school Jamex took a job packing small glass figurines for a local lampworker Cam Curtis. Lampwork is a type of glass making that involves the firing of glass rods and delicately shaping it into detailed forms. When Curis left his business Jamex, with the help of Einar, set up a business making and selling small figurines out of their garage at mass production. Jamex was drawn to sculpture and enrolled at Long Beach City College in the Art department, soon after Einar joined him.
In this classical art school environment, the brothers were exposed to various forms of making from bronze casting to glassblowing and ceramics. It was then that the brothers began blowing glass together. Blown glass is a collaborative process where artists work in teams to wield the heavy glass and manage the furnaces. After Jamex graduated with his Bachelor of Fine Arts, they continued their lampworking business. While the labor was intensive and the production demands high, lampworking provided a means by which the brothers could continue to develop their artistic voice. “Everybody has to purchase their freedom as it is, as a metaphor,” explained Einar. “And for us having a very low overhead and having this, this way of selling little pieces to crystal shops in Los Angeles region … kept us alive and gave us a lot of freedom to develop our artistic voice, which we saw very separate from this little production business.”
The brothers started their art career in the midst of a recession in the 1980s. They opened their first exhibition in the early 1990s at the Galería de la Raza in San Francisco, followed by a museum exhibition in Arizona. Some of these early works are what the brothers refer to as their “Rasquache” period. The Rasquache movement, a term coined by art historian Tomas Ybarra, is an art form practiced by Chicano and Chicana artists and consists of art created with what is available to the artist, using mundane materials that others may think of as junk or as tacky, kitsch or lowbrow. “I think rasquachismo is a joyous expression of freedom,” said Jamex. “It is like saying to the world, ‘I don't care, I'm going to use these extremely tacky or mundane materials and create something in your face and it's going to and we're going to make it work.’” “Baja Kali,” an early work from this period included in “Collidoscope,” uses indigenous iconography, maximalist style, collage, culture objects, and mixed media construction foreshadow many of the artistic themes that the brothers continue to build on in their practice.
Since the 1990s the brothers have continued to collaborate creating public and site-specific artworks, participating in exhibitions in the United States and Europe, and even staring as guest judges on Netflix’s “Blown Away” glass making competition. Their work continues to evolve into new mediums such as lenticular and possibly in the future digital animation.
The "Collidoscope: de la Torre Retro-Perspective" exhibition was made possible through a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino and The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum.
Support for the national tour was generously provided by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Latino.