Alexi Torres - Eye Opener
After two months of cancelled First Thursday Art Walk events at the Tula Gallery, I popped in to make my rounds through the studios. After the crowd died down, I headed back to Alexi Torres's studio. I've known Alexi since I first started hanging out, painting, and learning everything I wasn't taught in school in Barry Sons's studio (which used to be right down the hall).
Alexi Torres is an artist that I have tremendous respect for... a 'no nonsense' artist whose dedication to the form is exemplified in his work... mastery that cannot be explained with words. Although his work is on a level that I could only wish to achieve someday, we share some of the same views on art: his belief in focusing on details, practicing, practicing, practicing, until you've broken your own boundaries, never cutting corners, and concentrating all attention on perfecting a single brilliant piece opposed to cranking out a bunch of mediocre ones -- a result of the art schools he attended as a boy growing up in Cuba.
The stories he tells me are ones that he's two modest to preach about in front of possible clients and rich fancy-wine drinkin' pricks in a setting as corny as a Buckhead art opening. These stories are told after hours in the back of his gallery with maybe one or two studio lights on. It's better coming from him, with the tipsy Cuban accent, which is why I'm writing it, and not youtube-video blogging it. As a young boy growing up dirt poor with barely enough clothes to wear, a mother deceased by the age of nine, and a father; a farmer who could only provide corn to eat from his crops everyday -- Alexi found that art was the way out. While the rest of us bitch and complain with our post-art school bullshit attitudes about how the world will never give young artists a chance, Alexi ignored the 'starving artist' curse and believed that "the sun rises for everyone the same way." If one man could become a masterful and successful artist, why couldn't he? But success was not around right around the corner. It took more dedication than any of us young guys could imagine... more effort than any of us have ever dreamed of putting forth... I used to believe that I put in plenty of hours until he told me about his hours spent painting until 4:00am as a child, yes, a child. It made me feel as though all the work I had put in as an artist since the day I could pick up a crayon in my tiny hand was nothing. The permanent dark bags under his eyes are a testament to his passion and nonstop effort. Sometimes I think he sold his soul to the devil for the talent... no... superpower he possesses.
A lot of times you walk into a gallery and see artists who practically vomit on a canvas and preach themselves up as though they are gods. Alexi Torres is not one of these clowns. Art chose him. Not the other way around.
I must emphasize his humble attitude though. He would never talk himself up the way I have in this blog. One might say it's humility or admiration. When he saw the Salvador Dali exhibit at the High Museum and looked up at the thirty foot painting, he said sarcastically that he wanted to kill himself because he was looking at Dali's work the same way I look at Alexi's. It makes you feel like garbage. Even someone as experienced and talented as Torres can be left wanting to achieve more -- to transcend what was thought to be unsurpassable.
There's no real ending or punchline to this post. I just wanted to give a full-scale report on the evening in the studio of a living legend. It just opened my eyes even more than they already were. In order to become what I want to become, there's only one way to do it. And it doesn't involve cutting corners, bullshitting, and wasting my spare time on anything other than what I was put here to do. Become a slave to art and respect the goddamn form.