Critics’ Picks

  • Rubén Ortiz Torres, Burnt, 2020, urethane and crystals on car hood, 48 x 62 x 7".

    Rubén Ortiz Torres, Burnt, 2020, urethane and crystals on car hood, 48 x 62 x 7".

    Rubén Ortiz Torres

    Royale Projects | Los Angeles
    432 S. Alameda St.
    February 9–April 11, 2020

    Rubén Ortiz Torres’s new work responds to the “glitter revolution” that erupted in Mexico City last August when demonstrators glitter-bombed the city’s security minister in outrage over policemen’s rape of a teenage girl. Subsequent uprisings throughout Mexico protested officials’ complicity in rampant misogynistic brutality. This exhibition’s title, “Plata o plomo o glitter,” adverts to Colombian capo Pablo Escobar’s notorious catchphrase, Plata o plomo (“Silver or lead”), meaning, Accept the bribe or be assassinated. Inserting the sparkly medium into this macho equation, Ortiz Torres wryly mirrors women’s self-assertion within a rigged system.

    The protesters’ weapon is physically harmless but ideologically subversive; glitter is associated with festivity, frivolity, beauty—the antitheses of policemen’s irreversible savagery. These twinkling showers mock officials’ pretensions of upholding law and order. Here, in paintings such as Witness Protection Program (all works 2020), Ortiz Torres encrusts car body panels from junked Tijuana police vehicles with silver leaf, splatters of lead, and glittery paint. (The rape that set off the revolution allegedly took place in a patrol car.) The broken-down doors and hoods are clearly disengaged from their ostensible purpose, like the policemen themselves; the artist’s embellishments counterpoint the violence indexed by preexisting dents and bullet holes. One charred, partially melted auto hood (Burnt) drives home the horror.

    More traditional canvases evoke magisterial veneers of respectability and concern. In Y la culpa no era mía, starlike badges inhabit a shimmering expanse whose predominant blue recalls the hue of Blue Lives Matter, a militant anti–Black Lives Matter movement that paints US police officers as victims rather than aggressors. The painting’s title, which the artist translates as “It’s not my fault,” is a protest chant directed at authorities who blame injured parties instead of taking responsibility. The glitter revolution is a Mexican movement, but the malfeasance that sparked it knows no borders.

  • Parker Ito, Me in the Studio w/ Red Hat Render (copper tacks), 2020, diptych, copper tacks, oil on linen, overall 32 x 24".

    Parker Ito, Me in the Studio w/ Red Hat Render (copper tacks), 2020, diptych, copper tacks, oil on linen, overall 32 x 24".

    Parker Ito

    Château Shatto
    1206 S Maple Ave Suite 1030
    February 8–April 4, 2020

    In one of the twin oil-on-linen works from 2020 that are part of Parker Ito’s series “Me in the Studio w/ Red Hat Render,” 2014–, tacks are lodged in the canvas like bullets, and in the other, they thrust out, with the sharp ends facing the viewer. Only the tacks facing inward are real—those that stick out are rendered in paint. This is one of several instances of trompe l’oeil on view in “Longevity Buns,” whose title refers to a Chinese pastry that masquerades as a peach. Ito’s work is indebted to the self-propagating and -surveilling culture of the internet, and that domain’s slippery sense of realness translates here.

    Ito has also brought together materials for technological reproduction and consumption (printers, scanners, projectors, and video monitors, most switched on) as well as more decadent, gendered items (clusters of silver chains hanging, like cobwebs, from orchids), all linked by electrical cords that line the gallery’s perimeter. This sinister, humming network is a reminder of the various traps that line both digital and meatspace.

    In an uncharacteristic gesture toward self-representation (for the past few years, Ito has refused to be photographed, and he often conducts interviews via proxy), the artist appears as an avatar in the aforementioned series, in both oil paintings and stainless-steel sculptures. This glossy, muscular figure—clad in armor and a backward baseball hat, clutching a sword beneath folded arms, frozen in a battle-ready stance—resembles a video game character, the guy you’d choose to slay monsters on your behalf, and is the latest figure he has cut and pasted from the internet and society. Yet Ito's avatar does not become more familiar with each encounter, but rather uncannier; he is granted no history or dynamism within the world of the exhibition. Instead, he haunts it, a postmodern specter dislocated from any origin or future.