Ruben Ochoa

WATCHING, WAITING, COMMISERATING

Ruben Ochoa 222

source: mycalfundorg

Drawn to social constructs and how they hinge and re-enforce a city’s existing racial, and economic ebb and flow, I find myself attempting to abstract the social by examining the built environment.

My interest lies in these architectural elements that affect one’s surroundings, the physicality of space as defined by its boundaries or other instruments of demarcation. In my practice I create spatial disruptions that confront and implicate the viewer.

Giving a nod to civic engineering, my work derives from mere gestures on paper to then drawing with rebar and galvanized posts, materials that are woven into many of my recent sculptures. In a manner, propelling the work from form and formlessness the sculptures begin to activate the institutional landscape– moving from sculpture as object into installation, and architecture as character, animation, and sci-fi.

Working with a few basic materials; concrete, metal, and dirt, I’ve been able to develop them into a practice that continues to motivate my next body of work. Every space comes with its unique restrictions and limitations, but as reflected in my sculptures, I’m constantly finding ways to twist and meld these conceptual concerns to fit in these spaces. If not, I just cut it out.
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source: archpaper

Wooden pallets usually seen on loading docks are stacked as towers that define room-like spaces. Lengths of rebar, invisible within sidewalks and walls, become a viney forest that filters daylight above a twisting path.

This is the scene from Mexican-American artist Ruben Ochoa’s newest installation, which occupies most of the 10,000-square-foot Peter Farrell Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s downtown facility. The gallery is a former baggage warehouse at the back of the historical Mission Revival Santa Fe Depot (1915) designed by Bakewell & Brown. The artist employed his family to help with the installation over a two-week period.

The space is divided by a white wall, with the pallet structures on one side and the rebar forms on the other. The gallery walls are mounted with graphite-and-rust paintings of grids of lines, some horizontal and vertical, others slanting in perspective.

Upon entering the gallery, the pallet forms come first. Stacks of them form towers as high as 40 or more, and the towers join together as walls, covered on the entry side with drywall. These white walls conceal intimate spaces behind, wrapped by the exposed edges of pallets. The pallets bear the faded names of their original owners: Fritolay, Shell, Toma-Tek, Barton, and others.

In the adjacent space, the snaky lengths of rebar angle overhead like spindly tree branches, tied together by twisted wires, anchored into holes drilled in the concrete floor. Slanting pallets rest atop the rebar “trees” like scattered fragments of Dorothy’s storm-twirled house. The rebar clusters define a serpentine path beneath them, from one end of the long space to the other.

At first one is struck by such monumental and energized forms from common, utilitarian materials, but time reveals a dialectic: blue collar/fine art, loading dock/gallery, laborer/curator, invisible/spectacular, anonymity/visibility. According to his introductory note, Ochoa hopes to elevate the everyday and unseen to the level of Richard Serra, Doris Salcedo, Louise Bourgeois, and Gordon Matta-Clark.

The exhibit reminds architects, planners, and others who shape the built environment that materials can have meaning even when they aren’t seen, that anonymous laborers are the ones truly responsible for the structures around us, and that common, often-invisible materials can be exposed and combined into thoughtful works of art.
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source: la-confidential-magazine

“As a person and artist of color I’ve always been aware of boundaries,” says Ruben Ochoa, who despite being an Oceanside, California, native remembers constantly being stopped at the San Clemente checkpoint while driving with his family on the I-5 North. “Once I was driving to art school and had to show artworks in the trunk before I was given the nod to proceed.”

His destination that day was Otis College of Art and Design (the old campus across from MacArthur Park), from which Ochoa received a BFA. Later he studied for a semester at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and earned an MFA at the University of California, Irvine, where he continued to explore an interdisciplinary practice but found himself most often working in sculpture.

Rather than allowing his awareness of how space is delineated and demarcated (barriers and boundaries) to box himself in creatively, the artist, who turns 39 this month, uses it as an inspirational and material starting point to a much larger, provocative, and all-inclusive exploration of formalism, conceptualism, the urban and built environment, and materiality and modernity, all subtly interlaced with politics, economics, and, most surprisingly, playfulness—whimsy even.

The materials for his sculptures and installations have ranged from concrete and post footings to galvanized fence posts, rebar, wooden pallets, and dirt. Ochoa then divests what he calls “these everyday, accessible materials” of their usual usage, and redirects them into works of art. “They let me tap into the modern in a unique way, and then to distill my understanding of that idea even further,” says Ochoa, a former recipient of both the Guggenheim Fellowship and Renew Media Fellowship in New Media Art from the Rockefeller Foundation who has exhibited widely nationally and internationally, including at the much-ballyhooed Whitney Biennial in 2008.