I can’t write rationally or intelligently about the de la Torre brothers. Their work appeals to every last part of me that is still a little Puerto Rican girl who loves blown glass knick knacks that I just wanted to take them all home and set up a fancy shelving unit with tract lighting to display them and make me happy. Because nothing says joy more than luchadores, el dia de la muerte and dominoes.
As an exhibit, though, Animexican is almost a visual assault even in a spare and neutral gallery. These are not a ponderous, subtle works. The brothers specialize in glass blowing, combining it with other media and found objects, and piece after candy-colored piece layers Latino iconography, both authentic and kitschy (mostly kitschy), so densely that each one could be revisited several times and you’d find something new each time. As a game, I started checking off all the recurring imagery that I caught and there were human hearts (in lieu of sacred ones), saints, el dia de la muerte masks, dice, dominoes, luchadores, big boobied anime babes, Mayan and Aztec symbols, cards, beans, beer, stigmata, priests, tropical fruit, tire rims and graffiti. I’m sure there were more. Christopher Columbus even got a cameo.
It’s clear the brothers are well-versed in American, Mexican and Chicano culture and politics. The work has a tongue in cheek intelligence to it that belies the general air of frivolity that it initially presents. Laugh because the pieces are entertaining, but know why your laughing. Chances are, you’re also laughing at yourself. If you have any doubt, look at “La Reconquista” and tell me who you see.
With all that going on the brothers still find a balance between the delicate beauty of hand-blown glass and inherent earthiness of found objects with their personal carnival aesthetic. The above piece, “zAppo,” was my favorite because any piece of art that features that many luchadores is good, clean fun. It also features Christopher Columbus, I think, driving the truck with a priest riding shotgun. Are they taking the luchadores to market? Did the luchadores hijack the truck? What is that giant spectre doing? Why do Columbus and the priest look so glum? Don’t know, don’t care. I just want to look at it all day.
I loved this exhibition because I love hand-blown glass. Like I said, it goes straight to the heart of who I was growing up, never fully realizing my family was all that different from the other kids on my block. But the thoughtfulness behind the playful works, the reverence and bemusement at all the iconography they’d accumulated in their lives between two countries, appealed to the grown up in me.
The exhibit runs through October 22, and is right down the street from beautiful “downtown” Culver City, so if you get a chance, drop by. At the very least the pieces should make you clap your hands and say “pretty.”