The Mexican Problem (2000)
The Mexican Problem - An Installation by Jamex & Einar de la Torre
Intersection for the Arts
September 6 – October 14, 2000
San Francisco, CA
Brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre have been working collaboratively for close to two decades. They were born in Guadalajara, Mexico, grew up in Dana Point, Southern California - acquiring dual citizenship - and currently maintain two work studios: one in downtown San Diego and one in San Antonio de las Minas, a small ranch town outside of Ensenada, Mexico. They intimately understand what a binational experience and bicultural existence means, having to coexist within both cultures, traditions, and languages on a daily basis.
The blown glass and mixed media pieces of the de la Torres continually yield an exuberant critique of high and low culture, the sacred and profane, the beautiful and the vulgar. Anything and everything has the potential to become a source of inspiration: semi-truck mud flaps, Nintendo landscapes, fake gorilla fur, The Virgin of Guadalupe, 99¢ thrift store dolls. The formal combination of these elements, however, push across commonly understood thresholds into a deculturalized region – a place where notions of cultural boundaries just do not exist. Their work thrives in these spaces “between,” zones where the norms and conventions of living on either side of the divide do not, or more likely, cannot apply.
In this exhibition, the de la Torre brothers turn their discriminating and humorous interfacial eye towards the Mexican problem. The Mexican Problem? Whose problem? And who is the problem? And what is the problem? Bill Clinton? New Mexican president Vicente Fox Quesada Alcohol? The United States Border Control? Political corruption? The Zapatistas? Television? NAFTA? American Restaurateurs? Catholic iconography? Disney? Real estate developers? Portraying a variety of scenarios in which one can interpret the Mexican problem, the de la Torre brothers refuse to reduce cultural icons – be they Mexican or American – to an imagination-strangling shorthand or an ethnic self-esteem seminar. Their work constantly pushes against the restraint of tradition - the tradition of glass blowing, the tradition of icons and dogmas that define a culture. Their ability to homogenize both Mexican and American source material into a truly new hybrid form creates a language that does not specifically belong to either culture, but rather generates a new formal combination of the two. And it is from this interfacial perspective that we can more clearly see the emergence of ideas essential to the development and growth of a broader, newer, more inclusive culture.
- Kevin B. Chen