A big, retro-looking robot will soon find a home in Logan Heights. The new public-art project is by brother-artists Jamex and Einar de la Torre. The mixed-media robot sculpture, which is expected to be installed by the end of February, will stand 14 feet high near the intersection of Commercial and 22nd streets.
"It's definitely going to be noticeable," Einar says. "We're putting LED truck headlights in the robot's eyes, and they'll be flashing and blinking... It's right by the trolley, and you'll even be able to see it from Interstate 5 if you know where to look."
Jamex and Einar describe the piece as anachronistic, inspired by old images of Japanese robots built for an imagined futuristic era. The robot will be constructed of steel and inlaid with stone that's been hand-carved with images of modernized Mayan glyphs.
Einar leads me to the backyard of their San Diego studio to show off the detail of the stones, which were carved in Tecate, Mexico.
"So, these guys are going on the legs of the robot," he says, holding up a stone featuring an image of a Mayan god wearing headphones. "They all have something modern like that... See, this guy's riding a little motorcycle, and this is a little trolley here. So, this is how much detail we can get these carvers in Tecate to do."
The robot is the second of two significant public-art components (the other is a mural and other artwork by artists Mario Chacon and Hector Villegas) included with the construction of COMM22, a just-opened mixed-use project developed by Bridge Housing and MAAC. Civic San Diego, the city-funded nonprofit that emerged from the disbanding of redevelopment, required the project to include onsite public-art.
Nina Karavasiles, the public-art consultant hired by the developers, says the de la Torre brothers were selected through a competitive process and shortlisted along with artist Matt Devine. She's happy the developers were willing to go with such a whimsical work of art.
"It's a big leap for them," she says. "They had to wrap their heads around the fact that it looks like a giant robot toy."
Karavasiles is glad the project is finally close to completion after many unexpected delays.
"I just think this piece is fabulous," she says. "I think it's going to make such a place-setting here. I can imagine people saying, 'Let's meet at that robot,' you know?"