June 2 2015 06:47 PM

From Mexicali to L.A., the ascending Tijuana artist is popping up in galleries, on the streets and even in the desert

Carlos Cisneros
Photos by Stacy Keck

On a quaint, but otherwise gorgeous estate right off of Avenida Revolución in downtown Tijuana, Carlos Cisneros, who works under the name Elsoldelrac, spends most of his day in what appears to have once been a storage shed. It actually still resembles a storage shed, and is cluttered with art supplies and projects that aren't yet completed. It's a typical artist studio, but what separates Cisneros is not just the sheer amount of work he's producing, but how varied it is. 

"I don't know. I do everything. I just do," says Cisneros, while fashioning a chair out of a bucket and a piece of wood for us to sit on during an interview. "I just make stuff with the stuff that I have."

It'd be convenient to think that Cisneros' youth (he's 23) has something to do with being all over the place artistically, but by no means is he unfocused. He's made fans in the local art scene primarily because you don't know what he's going to do next. Just as he finished a photography-and-collage series called #FUCKTHESOCIALSYSTEM for a group show in Mexicali, he was already working on a sculpture piece for a collective show in Joshua Tree. 

"I have one more month left in school, but I don't have anything left to do because I work so fast," says Cisneros, who studies art at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.


Growing up in Tijuana, Cisneros says art has been "the only thing I've thought about since I was eight or ten." He used to sneak into his architect uncle's office to use the paints. Over the years, he's collaborated on a few murals and has painted his tag on many a street corner, but quickly moved away from street art to devote time to his more recent work. This include everything from conceptualist-style found-art to abstract expressionism-inspired pieces using fermented jamaica (hibiscus) paste. To hear him explain it, the #FUCKTHESOCIALSYSTEM series was a statement on forced breeding practices from the time of European conquistadors, and includes pictures of female and male genitalia surrounded by things like colored clothes pins and gold-painted chili peppers. 

"People didn't like that I had penises and pussies in there, but that's what I want with my work," says Cisneros. "I don't care if you like it or you don't, but you're going to have it on your mind after you see it." 

Most recently, he worked with a collective he helped start called Boiling Process, which includes a dozen artists (six from Tijuana and six from L.A.), for a site-responsive project called Joshua Treenial that features dozens of artists creating sculptural works that are displayed throughout the High Desert region. The metal cactus sculpture he made now sits in his studio, and like a lot of the work compiled here, he says he's not attached to it. He mentions that he falls in love so hard with whatever new piece he's just completed, that he comes to not care at all about the ones that came before. Thus, he often uses or repurposes materials from previous pieces to create new ones. He scoffs at being called prolific, but does acknowledge that he has big plans. He rolls up his sleeve to show off the tattoo scrolled on his forearm. 

"It's Frida Kahlo. It says, 'Pies, para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar?' It means, 'Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?'" 

Email editor@sdcitybeat.com or follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.


See all events on Friday, Dec 2