Ruben Ochoa: Crooked Under the Weight
Los Angeles artist Ruben Ochoa investigates the ways that class and race are expressed in the built environment. Drawing equally from international conceptual practices of the last thirty years and the funk and humor typical of the West Coast scene, he makes photographs, public art interventions, sculptures and installations from concrete, re-bar, dirt, metal fencing, asphalt and related materials. His best-known project, Fwy Wall Extraction (2006-07) injected photographic murals into a slice of LA’s Interstate 10, alluding to the landscape that the retaining walls blocked from view, and creating the illusion that sections of the wall had been removed.
For Ochoa, retaining walls may provide protection, but they also very obviously reference borders, and an effort to keep some things out of the way. Retaining walls are meant to prevent erosion; to keep nature from intruding on the man-made space of the freeway. Physically and symbolically they reinforce the divisions between neighborhoods, often drawn along class lines, created by the construction of the freeways. Ochoa uses the tensions latent within the material structure of the built environment to engage larger geo-political and social issues. In his work, Ochoa shows an interest in exploring issues of containment and transgression within a number of spheres.
SITE Santa Fe has commissioned Ochoa to make new work for his first major one-person museum exhibition. Ochoa’s installation at SITE will build upon the foundation of works like Fwy Wall Extraction, while exploring new directions. This work will continue his engagement with ideas such as the conflict between the natural and the built environment, the real and the illusionary, and the disruption of the sanctity of the art exhibition space. Monumental sculptures will meander through SITE’s galleries like giant rebar and concrete creatures, creating a visceral experience for visitors. Taking their form from the material of the exhibition space itself, these sculptures will be partially constructed from the concrete of the gallery floor. While the elegance of their form demonstrates the hand of the artist, this exists in tension with the feeling that these sculptures are autonomous objects that have forcibly dislodged themselves from the fabric of the museum.