Build ’Em High

For his first solo museum show here in a decade, Ruben Torres Llorca has chewed up the script of a head scratching whodunit and spit out a wickedly formulated plot snaring the spectator. His “Modelo para Armar/Easy to Build,” opening tonight at 8:00 at the Frost Art Museum at FIU, adroitly merges medium and message, joyfully hijacking language and imagery using a dose of biting sarcasm. The exhibit challenges the public to construct a story from a series of seemingly individual works meant to be read as an unfolding narrative, in an irony laced opus Torres Llorca deems “a thriller.”

“The show is text heavy, with excerpts from children’s tales, titles, phrases, and literary fragments typical of his work,” explains curator Elizabeth Cerejido. “As you go from piece to piece and experience the text, it becomes clear that the works are like pages, or chapters, telling a larger story while maintaining a sense of ambiguity that leaves you trying to figure what’s happening between the lines.”

Torres Llorca has woven his brainy tale using graphic style depictions of post World War II figures that seem clipped from the pages of Life magazine and feature the deceptively hokey veneer of an Ozzie and Harriet America he often riddles with language as a commentary on domestic banality. Rather than isolated commentaries on art, culture, or politics, the “actors” of the scenes seem to be cryptic protagonists in the American dream gone awry and are staged against a backdrop of meticulously cut and collaged newspaper snippets alluding to the recyclable nature of the work and of life itself.

Three dimensional objects often appear alongside chalkboards with messages that oddly link the images and words in a puzzling manner, provoking the viewer to untangle their meaning. Conceived by the artist as one installation, the exhibition was developed using works Torres Llorca snatched back from collectors for the show and individual pieces he has reinvented and folded into a sly palimpsest.

“It is interesting how Ruben manages to convey in such a succinct way an underlying sense of irony that really forces viewers to put on their thinking caps,” Cerejido observes. “He has taken what might be some of America’s most insidious propaganda projecting a postwar vision of the best of all possible worlds, and rehabilitated it with a sense of tension that leaves one wanting more.” The exhibit is on view through March 19.
Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Jan. 20-March 19


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