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Rubén Torres Llorca

About Rubén Torres Llorca

b. 1957, resides in the United States

After graduating from the San Alejandro Art School in 1976 and the Superior Institute of Art (ISA) in 1981, Rubén Torres Llorca participated—along with José Bedia, Juan Francisco Elso, Ricardo Rodríguez Brey, José Manuel Fors, Leandro Soto, and Flavio Garciandía—in the influential exhibition Volumen I (Volume One). Its presentation represented a break with a decade marked by decorativeness, an abstract concept of the common man as a subject, and the imposition of ideological paradigms on the visual arts. As the 1980s progressed, Torres Llorca used pop art and a certain campy nostalgia in such works as the series Cine del Hogar (Home Movie Theater, 1983) and Te llevo bajo la piel (I’ve Got You Under My Skin, 1986, MNBA) The strategy was a response both to the Cuban visual iconosphere, which had absorbed the American cultural industry of the 1950s, and to his personal experience growing up in a family of modest means in the historic neighborhood of Regla. During his trip to Mexico in 1985, Torres Llorca was so impressed by the country’s Baroque architecture and traditional arts and crafts that his later works focused on sculptures of vast spatial conception, intended as an emphatically anthropological communication with the viewer.

The central motif in Nosotros… is an authentic historical document: a picture of Ana Mendieta, together with most of the artists who exhibited in Volumen I, taken by Rogelio Lopez Marín outside Centro de Arte Internacional (Galeria Acacia). The artistic and political meaning of this encounter between Cuban creators on both shores, engaged in an aesthetic renewal driven by personal visions, has been transformed into a myth still resonant with utopian projections 25 years later. Nonetheless, Torres Llorca’s subsequent recollection highlights specific tangents to the episode: “In the early 1980s, she (Ana Mendieta) brought Lucy Lippard and Rudolph Baranik to the island. They were absolutely astonished to find that the art of a Communist country had not fallen into the pit of social realism, and upon returning to their country they said that the works seemed taken from SoHo. We became the dream of the American left” (Fontana, 2005).

Torres Llorca’s piece is a settling of scores, with himself as well as with his whole generation. The title sarcastically evokes the loss of innocence and the implacable passage of time, which separates people and dilutes previously shared relationships and beliefs. The expositive character of this piece is masked by the appearance of an interior wall or panel in a home, embellished by a border of plant motifs—a kitsch decorative motif used in Cuban homes. In its center appears the picture taken on a sidewalk near the International Art Center (now the home of La Acacia Gallery). This image is flanked by two electrical devices, above explanatory signs stating the amount of time elapsed between the original event and the moment when Torres Llorca created the piece. But the wire that conducts electricity (energy) in the period between 1981 to 1987 goes nowhere at all: it is a frustrated circuit, with no possible application. Torres Llorca is trying to convey that the communication—the collective, transformative impulse that infused his generation—is hopelessly wrecked. More disenchanted than nostalgic, his piece is a peculiar vision of things “gone with the wind,” a testimony of the losses and failures brought about by life.

—Abelardo Mena Chicuri

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