RAUL DE LARA
I Wake Up In A Foreign Country Every Day
September 3 – October 17, 2020
Visits by appointment, book here.

For Being Left-Handed - 2020.jpg

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.

 
VIEWING ROOM

RAUL DE LARA

For Being Left Handed, 2020

Pine, Chiclets Gum, Acrylic, Brass, Steel, Particle Board

27 x 12 x 13 in

Artist's description: "Self-portrait of my childhood in Mexico made during my fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Left Handed cactus school desk with over 2,000 hand-carved needles, and Chiclets gum stuck under the fake hardwood desk. The idea for this sculpture came from reflecting back on my Catholic upbringing in Mexico, the nuns hitting my left hand with a ruler in the mornings, and the defense mechanisms children develop from trauma. I made this sculpture for my first ever show in Mexico City and I wanted the sculpture to be very present in the room, yet still not truly touch the ground. The needles don’t allow for this sculpture to set roots or truly be grounded in Mexico. First exhibited at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, then Mexico City. The scale of the sculpture is to emphasize childhood scale.

RAUL DE LARA

28 Years Later

Pine, Wisdom Tooth, Water, Rio Grande Dirt, Oak, Acrylic, Tzi-Te Beans, Red String, Wood Glue, Provincetown Sand, Walnut Dust, Terra-cotta Pigment, Lacquer

84 x 15 x 17 in

2020

Artist's description: "Self-portrait of my life in the USA. Each cactus paddle has carved into it symbols that represent my most fond or heavy memories here in the USA. From the blue car symbolizing our escape from Mexico in my parent’s car, the Australia outline recalling my lost lover, to the 16 lines carved representing the years I’ve been in the USA. My wisdom tooth is inlayed in the mask and other personal items. The mask stands at the height of my face in person echoing my lack of presence in the room, and inability to leave the country. Made during my fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. First exhibited at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, then Mexico City."

RAUL DE LARA

DACA/Self-Portrait

Pine, Stone, Sarape, Silk, Plywood, Plastic Wrap, Acrylic, Oak

44 1/2 x 32 x 28 in

2018

Artist's description: "This image was taken at Big Bend National Park in Texas. This park shares the US/Mexico border. Soon after the image was taken, I was detained by Border Patrol, and they found this sculpture laying flat in my trunk."

RAUL DE LARA

She's So Tired

Pine, Lacquer, Straw, Steel, Oak

50 x 13 x 22 in

2019

Artist's description: "A very tired broom. First exhibited at my MFA thesis show, then at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. The idea of this piece came from thinking about labor, and the faces of it. Before getting DACA, I had to work illegally in a bunch of places with mainly undocumented people. I got to see first hand the deep exhausting these people, including myself, experience from the lack of work stability, fear of getting caught, and weight of being looked at more as a tool than a person. This is an ongoing series of tired tools."

RAUL DE LARA

The Shovel Who Can't Shovel

Pine, Sand, Oak, Plywood, Water, Wood Glue, Lacquer, Steel

36 x 38 x 10 in

2018

Artist's description: "A tired shovel who can’t shovel no more. First exhibited at my MFA candidacy show. Part of an ongoing series of tired tools exploring the difficulty for us immigrants to dig deeper in a country where we have lived for so long, my upcoming DACA expiration date, and the weight of that. Growing up working odd construction jobs with my dad, I got to see first hand the difficulties faced by my father and the other workers, the abuse, and the trauma inflicted. This shovel represents these construction workers."

RAUL DE LARA

Tired Broom (Texas)
Pine, Texas Laurel Seeds, Red String, Oak, Lacquer, Straw, Steel

33 x 10 x 2.5 in

2020

RAUL DE LARA

Tired Shovel (Twin)
Pine, Steel, Lacquer, Oak, Plastic

29 x 6 1/4 x 2 in

2020

RAUL DE LARA

Home

Sand, Silk, Pine, Oak, Acrylic, Epoxy Resin, Water, Wood Glue

38 x 33 x 18 in

2017

Artist's description: "Sand chair precariously balancing on the tip of a wet wooden leaf. First exhibited at the Anderson Gallery with “Warmth”. The idea for this piece comes from thinking about the “home” as a precarious place. A place of balance, stability and how if one doesn’t take care of it, it can fall apart. I used the chair as a symbol of home space, and its made out of sand because sand is malleable as the idea of the home is as well, yet it can crumble in a matter of seconds. As an immigrant in the USA, I’ve built my “home” here but it can be destroyed if I get deported or my family is. The leaf balancing this chair represents the idea of the care something like a friendship, relationship or emotion needs in order to keep it alive. Like watering your plants."

RAUL DE LARA

Warmth

Sand, Pine, MDF, Wood Glue, Oak, Acrylic, Water, Epoxy Resin

30 x 20 x 9 in

2017

Artist's description: "Sand space heater balancing on the tip of four wet leaves. The idea for this piece comes from thinking about the“home” as a precarious place. A place of balance, stability and how if one doesn’t take care of it, it can fall apart. I used the space heater as a symbol of the warmth and affection one feels at home. The space heater is made out of sand because sand is malleable as the idea of the affection is, yet it can crumble in a matter of seconds. As an immigrant in the USA, I’ve built my “home” here but it can be destroyed if I get deported or my family is. The leaf balancing this space heater represents the idea of the care something like a friendship, relationship or emotion needs in order to keep it alive. Like watering your plants.

RAUL DE LARA

Pencil #2

Pine, Acrylic, Pencil, Galvanized Steel

22 x 12 x 4 in

2020

RAUL DE LARA

Inflatable Tombstone / Ghost Of Pepe

Concrete, Oak, Lacquer, Rubber, Foam, Ghost, Acrylic, Sealer, Cocaine Dust, Tequila

34 x 24 x 4 in

2019

Artist's description: Inflatable concrete tombstone that serves as a time-share apartment for my friend Pepe, the carpenter ghost. Tombstone moves from side to side when Pepe wants to communicate. First exhibited at my MFA thesis show. The idea of this piece came from my interest with ghosts, spirits of the past, and lingering energies found throughout the world. I once held a job at a woodshop in Chicago where the opening for my job came from the death of the founder. Now that he was gone, the position opened and before I knew it, the ghost of Pepe was attacking me. For a whole week, he put me through life-threatening freak accidents, and I had to finally communicate with him and tell him to stop. We are friends now. This sculpture is a time-share for ghosts to visit and if desired, communicate with our world by rocking this sculpture side to side.

RAUL DE LARA

Spring of 2020

Pine, Neodymium Magnets, Epoxy, Acrylic

2020

Artist's description: "Ongoing series of hand-carved wooden leaves installed on the wall. Leaves are attached by magnets onto the wall, or can be permanently attached. The color palette ranges in any color of the seasons. The idea of these leaves came from my inability to travel outside the USA, and the necessity to be able to make work that could be easily shipped anywhere, installed anywhere by anyone, and installed at any given locating no matter the architecture. This kind of work takes into consideration the preexisting architecture, and instead of imposing itself onto it, it takes the shape of it. This idea also came from my interest in thinking about invasive species, what it means to be invasive, and the parallels I see with being undocumented now in the USA.

RAUL DE LARA

Smile (Ptown)

Pine, Acrylic, Neodymium Magnets, Epoxy

18 x 15 x 2 in

2020

Artist's description: "Hand-carved wooden leaves forming a smiley face. Made during my fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. I started making these modular wall leaf sculptures as I explored the idea of what does it mean to be an invasive species, and how long does it take for an "invasive" species to no longer be invasive? The idea of invasive species I see synonymous with my positions as an immigrant in this country. How long until things get better for us? How long must we wait? I see this smile as a reminder to keep on moving through these hard times, and to remember to water our inner garden."

RAUL DE LARA

She's Also So Tired (Ptown)

Pine, Lacquer, Broom Head, Oak

2020

“Once again, I placed my left hand on the elementary school desk so sister Olga could hit me. She didn’t like that I was left-handed, and would tell me things about growing up the wrong way – her job as a Catholic nun I assumed.

 

Leaving Mexico so abruptly didn’t give my family the opportunity to pack up what we called home. We no longer owned furniture. Once our brittle foundation was pulled out from under our feet, we felt malleable sand on our toes. It was then I realized the ever-changing, sand-like quality of calling a place home.

 

As I looked for illegal work in the US, I wondered why everyone was so excited to get here simply to be turned into tools. For years we hid behind our tools. “You’re too precious to break, but they’ll give you a smoke break sometimes.” My mother always reminded me to use humor as my tool.

 

The day I became a DACA recipient, I was able to legally apply for any job, be anybody, wear any mask. I sanded my 20’s away. Working at a haunted furniture shop in Chicago taught me one thing: people don’t stop working after their deaths. Pepe, the shop’s co-founder who recently died at my new work station was now haunting me. We became friends through a full moon ritual I performed, and the tombstone in this exhibition is now his time-share home. The sculpture moves from side to side when he’s in town.”

 

– Raul De Lara

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