CALEXICO — Art collector Alonso Elias has selected works by artist Jaime Ruiz Otis from his art collection for free public exhibition at the Steppling Art Gallery at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus in Calexico. The exhibit runs April 6 through May 6, and is open Thursdays from 5-8 p.m.
Through a collaboration with Luis Hernández, director of the Steppling Art Gallery, and curator and artist Adrián Pereda, a collection of 23 artworks were selected for exhibit at the gallery.
“I like these works because they are made out of recycled materials from the maquiladoras in Tijuana and Tecate (Mexico) which are similar to the ones in Mexicali,” Elias said. “It’s all recycled materials. Everything in this room has been found in some way or another. Like crates, fax toners, silver foil, a satellite dish, or stickers from the back of VCRs.”
It is as if the artist, Jaime Ruiz Otis, allowed a second chance for discarded materials to have a life of their own on a canvas. For his art, discarded by-products are collected from trash bins, sorted, and searched for patterns of inherent beauty. These are by-products discarded in the production of materials supposedly to make life convenient. However, the convenience has left a trail of trash in its wake, and Jaime Ruiz Otis has seen beauty in them, according to Elias. Beauty from trash.
“The way he thinks and puts them together is very interesting to me,” Elias said as he showcased “Registro de Labor Grande 05” on the south side wall of the Steppling Art Gallery. The art on canvas depicts six rectangular repeated patterns — resulting from industrial matrix impressions— left on cutting acrylic mats that were used as protective barriers for cutting industrial materials. Ruiz used the mats, added ink and directly created an impression on cotton paper. Images created show multiple rectangles in the same general area giving an impression of movement that challenges the eyes to focus. In a way, the marks are a work history pattern of a worker.
According to Elias, instead of using traditional etching techniques commonly utilized by other artists, Ruiz is proposing the repetitive action patterns produced by some machines as art in itself. Elias said of the artist, “He saw it as a valid artwork.”
Similar patterns were found in artworks “Registro de labor Mediano 008”, “Registro de labor Mediano, Circulos Grandes 01”, and “Registro de labor Cruz y Moviento” (registration of labor-cross and movement).
Some of the art conjures up leftovers from discarded office printers and similar copying machines and supplies. In particular, a piece entitled “Google Earth”. From a distance of about ten feet, the canvas evokes similarities to a computer image of a map search of a location identified on a GPS (Global Positioning System).
Then, Elias showed art that occupied one panel on the west side of the gallery. “Chaos-Order-Chaos” depicted a meticulous stack of intermittent repeated patterns and random arrangement of rectangles. A closer look revealed tiny rectangular sticker labels with “Panasonic. Made in Mexico” to create patterns for the art. These stickers were used to identify the name of the company and the country of origin where it was manufactured.
One art piece suggested tiny pieces of paper scattered up in the air to celebrate an occasion. The title is a derivative of the word confetti. Closer examination of the work, “Confett-E”, reveals a heaping accumulation of computer microcircuits and finished with acrylic on canvas.
According to Hernández, artists are selected through contacts, those he has met in the gallery, and from artists’ request for the show. “I give opportunity to artists, young curators and young cultural promoters of the gallery, and art collectors,” he said.
“When Ruiz Otis started his series in the late 1990s, he responded to the dramatic change in the geography of Tijuana caused by the presence of transnationals and maquiladoras after the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He made use of the debris of industrial parks for his production and replaced the assembly line by handmade labor that produces one of a kind ‘art’ objects,” said Hernández.
Jaime Ruiz Otis, born in Mexicali in 1976, has shown his art either as an open-person exhibition or in group-exhibitions in San Diego and New York; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City and Tijuana in Mexico; Frankfurt, Germany; Zurich, Switzerland; Santiago, Chile; Beijing, China; Moscow, Russia; and Cuenca, Ecuador. His works are included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo-UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico; and The Elias+Fontes Collection.
Elias said of his art collections, “I don’t think they should be in the closet. I think art should be shown, thought about, written about, and enjoyed. It’s just pretty fulfilling for me.”