Capturing the multifaceted, chaotic essence of border towns is what brothers Jamex and Einar de la Torre do best. Known for their layered glass sculptures that radiate a wild, wacky and recognizable border aesthetic, the prominent binational artists will be transforming San Ysidro's The Front (147 W. San Ysidro Blvd.) into Whysidro, an exhibition that'll envelop the whole space.
"We've got the vinyl coming in for the window installations," Einar says, standing inside The Front. "And, look, we have red walls to fill."
The show—a product of the San Diego Foundation's Creative Catalyst Fund, which awards grants to local artists to develop new work—will open with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 12, and remain on view through Aug. 28.
The brothers' matching minivans parked outside the gallery have been modified to include quirky lights on top. Jamex and Einar walk outside, open the back of one of the vans and pull out a large-scale work, a print piece that references Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by reimagining the iconic view of the border fence that runs into the ocean between Las Playas de Tijuana and Border Field State Park. The Mexican side of the fence is a chaotic clash of darker, hellish-looking imagery while the U.S. portion is where the tempting earthly delights lie.
They hold it up in the afternoon sun to reveal the image's detailed, three-dimensional quality. It's a lenticular print, which means that at the right angle and with good light, the scene can appear to have a depth of almost two feet. Lenticular prints are simply images that look 3D or animated—like the winking-eye prize found in Cracker Jack boxes or baseball cards where the batter appears to be swinging—but the digital-printing technology has come a long way. The artists have several other lenticulars in the show, including a panel that's essentially the rebuttal to the Bosch-inspired piece and pictures the U.S. as a dark place where Mexicans are turned into slaves. The rest of The Front will be filled with the brothers' better-known glass and mixed-media sculptures.
The artists say they used the Creative Catalyst-funded yearlong residency at The Front to delve deeper into border themes and explore their new interest in lenticular printing.
"I think that's the wonderful thing about showing in this venue," Jamex says. "It's not commercial, so the intent is not to sell. The intent of the grant was to develop ideas, and, from the beginning, they told us it's not about finishing; it's about starting things. With the lenticulars, we're still learning. Some stuff is working better; some stuff is still surprising us. It takes time to find the full value of what we can do."