Ethan Cohen Gallery is pleased to present Raul De Lara: I Wake Up In A Foreign Country Every Day, the first New York solo exhibition of the artist’s work. Raul De Lara’s artistic practice reflects on his experience as an immigrant from Mexico in the United States, expressed through the love of wood.
Born in 1991, Raul De Lara immigrated from Mexico to the United States at the age of 12 and has been a DACA recipient since 2012. Growing up in Texas as a non-English speaker, feeling neither from here nor there, his work reflects on ideas of nationality, language barriers, body language, and the sense of touch. His sculptures explore how stories, folklore, and rituals can be silently communicated through inanimate objects, tools, and foreign environments. De Lara often works with wood, a material that always shows the passing of time on its skin. His aesthetics and materials are inspired by the shared backyard between the United States and Mexico.
Often autobiographical, De Lara’s sculptures reveal memories, personal experiences, and hard truths of the artist’s existence through the symbolism infused in the work. For Being Left-Handed (2020), a cactus school desk with over 2000 hand-carved needles and Chiclets gum stuck under the fake hardwood desk, is a self-portrait of the artist's childhood in Mexico. The idea for this sculpture came from reflecting back on his catholic upbringing in Mexico, the nuns hitting his left hand with a ruler in the mornings, and the defense mechanisms children develop from trauma. It’s sister sculpture 28 Years Later, a wooden cactus tree, is a self-portrait of the artist’s life in the USA. Each cactus paddle has carved into it symbols that represent significant milestones in the artist's life: from a blue car symbolizing his family’s escape from Mexico, the Australia outline recalling a lost lover, to sixteen lines representing the number of years he has lived in the USA. The sculpture also contains the artist’s wisdom tooth inlaid in a carved mask, and other personal items that both reflect the artist’s presence and lack thereof within the environment. De Lara created these works for his first show in Mexico City, which he was unable to attend due to his immigration status in the United States.
His Tired Objects series explore the idea of labor and the difficulty for immigrants like De Lara to dig deeper in a country where they have lived in for so long. Growing up working odd construction jobs with his father, De Lara saw firsthand the difficulties faced by his father and other undocumented workers, including the trauma and abuse inflicted. The bent objects carry in them the deep exhaustion that comes with the experiences of lack of work stability, the fear of getting caught, and the weight of being looked at as tools rather than human beings.
Other works exhibited include Home and Warmth, works made out of sand and balanced on carved wooden leaves, which reflect on ideas of belonging and home, and the malleability of the concepts, Inflatable Tombstone, a sculpture that is also a time-share for his friend Pepe, the carpenter ghost, and other ghosts who wish to communicate with this world, and Spring 2020 and Smile, works that consist of various arrangements of hand-carved wooden leaves, poetic sculptures that take inspiration from ideas of invasive species and nature.
The exhibition includes fourteen hand-carved sculptures installed in the gallery that reflect on ideas of belonging, home, labor, love, living, and artmaking. Raul De Lara: I Wake Up in a Foreign Country Every Day will be on view at Ethan Cohen Gallery until October 17, 2020.
Join us for the opening reception on September 3rd, 12 – 6 PM. We will be enforcing social distance measures for everybody's safety. Priority will be given to those who have made appointments to view the show.