"Over the last few years, I have been working with hydraulic mechanics and different customizing techniques to alter objects and adapt them to particular and specific cultural, political and aesthetic needs. These objects and paintings refer to high modernism but also subvert it and play with it thereby establishing a dialogue with specific cultural and subcultural practices and social interaction. More recently, I have been exploring different materials that have the capacity to change, such as chromaluscent paints that change color when the angle of reflection of the light changes and heat sensitive paints that change color when touched. These materials when applied to paintings and objects result in artworks that mutate, transform and adapt their own identities. My “monochrome” paintings are a good example of this. I have been experimenting with chromaluscent painting that changes color as the spectator moves when its pigment refracts light from different angles. I experimented this time with chromaluscent chrome and flake called Prizmacoat. I have been working with a company in Los Angeles that develops these materials for car customizers.
The most ambitious piece of the series is a museum bench that is also a sculptural object. It is painted with thermosensitive painting that reacts to changes in temperature. Its color varies when touched from a purple to a brighter pink. Therefore its design varies and it is made when people use it, seat on it or touch it leaving their mark. It resembles formally a minimalist sculpture but it requires social participation and interaction to exist. Unlike some other purist modernist art it is playful and sensual. Now I am producing a couple of new benches for an exhibition of Los Angeles artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
These pieces are in constant flux changing in response to light, temperature and participation. These seductive materials relate to certain art practices common to California such as the “Fetish Finish” school of minimalism and are usually used in car customizing. I have used and learned about these materials working with low riders in Southern California. However the artwork also relates to another art tradition that I would like to emphasize. Latin America created its own modernisms, often addressing social, emotional or spiritual concerns.
My goal is not to create art for art sake or pure seductive spectacle. Abstraction in this case is not meant to be a homogenizing universalistic absence of language but on the contrary. I want to use color and surface as part of a liberating lexicon with a rich history and culture beyond the galleries and museums."
Ruben Ortiz-Torres was born in Mexico City in 1964. Educated within the utopian models of republican Spanish anarchism soon confronted the tragedies and cultural clashes of post colonial third world. Being the son of a couple of Latin American folklore musicians he soon identified more with the noises of urban punk music. After giving up the dream of playing baseball in the major leagues and some architecture training (Harvard Graduate School of Design) he decided to study art. He went first to the oldest and one of the most academic art schools of the Americas (the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City) and later to one of the newest and more experimental (Calarts in Valencia CA). After enduring Mexico City's earthquake and pollution he moved to Los Angeles with a Fullbright grant to survive riots, fires, floods, more earthquakes, shootings and proposition 187. He still hangs around school but now as a Faculty member of the University of California in San Diego. During all this he has been able to produce artwork in the form of paintings, photographs, objects, sculptures, custom cars and machines, installations, videos, films, text and opera. He has participated in several international exhibitions and film festivals. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museums of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and San Diego, the California Museum of Photography in Riverside CA, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, the Jumex collection and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid Spain among others. He was a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores and has won international awards such as the Andrea Frank Foundation Award, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts in New York, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, the C.O.L.A. Individual Artist Fellowship, etc.
After showing his work around the world and be living abroad, he now finally realizes that his parents music was in fact better than most rock’n roll.