Dividing his time between Mexico City and Los Angeles, Rubén Ortiz-Torres recognizes that place and identity are tenuous and continually transforming. Having obtained his primary education in Mexico City at a progressive school promoting creative thought and independent research, the artist identified with art at an early age as an outlet allowing total freedom of expression. Moving to Los Angeles in 1990, he began working in various media including paint, photography, film, video, and multimedia collage. Ortiz-Torres’s work is profoundly impacted by the tensions and intersections embedded in multiculturalism, nationalism, capitalism, and hybridization. Using a mixture of components derived from icons of contemporary culture and high art, the artist has created a style that has often been described as “neo-baroque pop” or “multicultural pop.”
Ortiz-Torres’s work is rooted in contemporary culture, genres, idiosyncrasies, and hybridity. Socially and politically conscious, his films are experimental documentaries about cross-cultural intersections. Blending Latin and American art, history, politics, and myth into thought-provoking concepts and stimulating visual productions, La Zamba del Chevy, a recent two-part work comprised of a three-dimensional video projection and a 1960 Chevrolet Impala lowrider, appealed to his strong interest in Chicano lowrider culture and the evolution of technology and representation.
For his ArtPace residency Ortiz-Torres collaborates with fellow resident artist and independent filmmaker Jim Mendiola on a project about the Alamo, the most popular historical landmark in San Antonio and a symbol of Texas’s independence from Mexico in 1836. With particular attention to history’s cyclical nature, the artists emphasize the process by which the Alamo has become a blend of battle myth, holy shrine, tourist spectacle, and archeological site that is an important, yet enigmatic, component of Texas history. By focusing on its current status as a tourist destination, the artists borrow the vocabulary of the tourist trade in creating an installation comprised of a 3-D movie, two linticular hologram prints of a dis/appearing Alamo, and a life-size wax sculpture/fountain of rock star Ozzy Osbourne. In an infamous 1992 incident, Osbourne was arrested for desecrating the Alamo and was then banned from playing future concerts in San Antonio. Ortiz-Torres’s and Mendiola’s wax figure wryly approximates the event with carnival-like exactitude. By highlighting unusual historical occurrences such as this, the artists emphasize how these events have become incorporated into the Alamo’s exaggerated and often manipulated history. The movie, sculpture, and prints encourage the viewer to search for a means to redefine the Alamo by sifting through its problematic past and symbolic value.