From a simple line, artist Tony de los Reyes was able to create a series of work that embodied abstraction.
Debuting his series, “Border Theory,” at the Cal State Fullerton Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana on Sept. 1, de los Reyes wanted to explore something that would differentiate from culture in a unique way.
He started thinking about space, the ocean and vast expanses for his “Moby Dick” series, which he completed prior to “Border Theory.”
“I started thinking about border, which is part of my family history, but also, living in Los Angeles and being so close to the border,” said de los Reyes.
De los Reyes spent six years working based on the novel Moby Dick and from there, drew inspiration for “Border Theory”.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, de los Reyes became fascinated with the line that divided the United States and Mexico.
He said that there is not a literal relationship of “Mexican-ness” to his “American-ness” but rather a relationship of space.
“There’s an enormous, huge, very different country immediately south, within an hours drive or a couple hours drive, that is radically different that’s literally defined by a line,” de los Reyes said.
De los Reyes added that it’s not a cultural relationship but more of a spatial relationship.
The artist found the line that divided the two countries as something to be looked at beyond the culture and politics.
Rather than paint the linen, de los Reyes stains the linen with fabric dye.
“The dyes are much more intense because they integrate themselves into the material,” de los Reyes said. “They don’t sit on the surface.”
With fifteen separate pieces that make up the series, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a simple line when looking at each one.
But each line in de los Reyes’ work represents a physical part of the actual border.
What makes de los Reyes unique is that he strayed from the classic mediums that most artists use in their work.
“Most people work with traditional materials like oil paint or acrylic,” de los Reyes said. “I’m interested in slightly different versions of materials in the case; I worked on raw linen, which is different than prime canvas.”
There is a reason for de los Reyes’ choice in medium, preferring the linen as a means to illuminate the message of his work.
To him, the linen is like the landscape in the sense that it is a big expansive space.
“I think of the color as a way of describing landscape and terrain. And then I use oil to talk about how the space has been chopped up by the border itself,” de los Reyes said.
De los Reyes aimed at creating something that was more than a painting, but also more than just re-creating a map.
He said map-making is a form of drawing, except people think of borders as political entities rather than drawings.
“When you’re making paintings, you don’t tend not to think of it as political entity, but it often can be,” de los Reyes said.
By creating “Border Theory”, de los Reyes wishes to instill in people the ability to look at things in a different perspective.
“I’m really interested in having these things overlap,” de los Reyes said. “Sort of same qualities that it takes to change a nation or change an identity. The same format changes a painting.”
The gallery was filled with people fascinated by de los Reyes’ unique style.
Pasha Turley, a resident of San Diego and retired college art professor at Southwestern College, said the show was wonderful.
“The thing I like about the piece is the way the depth happens and also his use of color and staining,” said Turley. “Using that combination of colors worked very well with the subtleness to it and yet very vibrant.”
John Spiak, director and chief curator of the CSUF Grand Central Art Center, was pleased with the opening reception’s turnout.
“The reason we selected Tony is we’re looking at artists that are doing work that’s relevant to this community,” said Spiak. “Santa Ana is 88.9 percent Hispanic.”
Though this exhibit marked the first time Spiak has collaborated with de los Reyes, the director had nothing but admiration for the artist.
“He’s fantastic, complete professional, an incredible artist,” Spiak said.
Spiak was able to spend time in the studio with de los Reyes and watched as his thought process developed into his work.
“This is a show about the border, but also contemporary art and abstract art,” Spiak said.
“Border Theory” will be on display at the CSUF Grand Central Art Center until Nov. 14.