"I tell people I went to art school to be a construction worker."
- Ruben Ochoa
Employing construction materials like cement, sand, rebar, and wire, Los Angeles artist Ruben Ochoa transforms serviceable resources into works of art. Ochoa's work can be both surreal and poetic: a fifteen-by-eighteen-foot slab of concrete partially covered with dirt appears as if a section of a freeway just landed inside a commercial gallery and a group of aluminum poles bent at odd angles, capped with a pod-looking cement hood gives the appearance of delicate vegetation swaying in the wind. Akin to street verse, these works articulate urban feelings with the intensity known to those who appreciate living in a city environment.
Ochoa is interested in the physicality of space with its defined boundaries or demarcations that result in dislocation and displacement. In his first edition with The Lapis Press, Steel Life Porcelana, 2014, Ochoa presents a sculpture that consists of three elements: porcelain, concrete, and wire. Measuring 21 x 6-1/4 x 12 inches, the small sculpture borrows physical elements from the diverse environment of Southern California in the service of subtle social and cultural critique. According to Ochoa, this piece represents more than just a "bundle of rebar"; in effect, it alludes to informal economic practices common among low wage construction workers. Unable to be utilized in construction, scraps of rebar less than 24" long are considered waste and thrown away. Mindful of their industrial value, laborers bundle rebar bits together to bring to recycling centers where they can be exchanged for cash. In its transliteration of one sturdy material for a fragile one, Steel Life Porcelana denies the former its original use value and utilitarian purpose while elevating it to artwork status in the form of a porcelain replica.
Ruben Ochoa lives and works in Los Angeles. His interdisciplinary practice includes sculpture, site-specific and site-responsive installations, photography, drawing, and public intervention. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at such international venues as Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Miami Art Museum, Miami; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, California; PinchukArtCenter, Kiev, Ukraine; Sammlung Falckenberg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany; Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
— Alma Ruiz, Senior Curator MOCA