Ruben Ochoa

March 19 – July 24, 2009
at Peter Blum SoHo

Critics' Pick: Ruben Ochoa
May 16, 2009

Things are not always as they seem. That’s the de facto premise of Ruben Ochoa’s “Collapsed,” an exhibition comprising a fifteen-foot-wide by eighteen-foot-long slab of concrete that leans against a gallery wall and is partially covered with mounds of red dirt also filling much of the floor space. Related to Extracted, 2006, exhibited at LAXART, “Collapsed” continues Ochoa’s exploration of infrastructure, particularly the interminable Los Angeles freeway system; fittingly, his favored materials include galvanized fence posts, cement, dirt, and chain-link.

“Collapsed” functions in several ways. The more obvious is the recontextualization of urban materials––a concrete roadbed, compacted red earth––to highlight the ways our built environment shapes our experience; the more rewarding is the work’s deconstruction of how we see and judge art. Ochoa has left a tantalizing amount of empty space beyond the piles of earth, encouraging curious viewers to pass beneath the hefty concrete. Once safely on the other side, they are met with a surprise: What appeared to be mounds of earth are, in fact, “images” of mounds of earth, lifelike reproductions thanks to a skeletal support of chicken wire and burlap. One discovers that “Collapsed” is not only a site of urban destruction, with its ensuing associations. It is also a platform, a Hollywood stage on which to enact the spectacular discord between expectations and reality. This sculptural sleight of hand is a chance to see form anew, if only momentarily, before inevitable narrativistic impulses carry the viewer beyond the gallery’s threshold.