IN Magazine, January 2001

“Fractured” Artist: Ed. de la Torre

by Muffy Clinton

Artist Ed. de la Torre has always been an original thinker. Perhaps it began with the spelling of his first name, which he shortened and added a period to when he was in high school. The Los Angeles native, now 40, explains its origins: “My last name starts with a lower case ‘d’ and thats confusing enough. Now they know where my first name ends and my last name begins. There are more complicazted names than mine in the world, though,” he adds with a laugh. True enough. And simplicity seems to be a theory by which the artist lives.

De la Torre, after graduating from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts in 1984, embarked on a photography and video career that has seen his work exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the world. But two years ago, while visiting New York’s Museum of Modern Art with his lover, Tom Lockyer, de la Torre stumbled upon a unique approach to presenting couples in portraiture photography.

“I took a mug shot of Tom with an Yves Klein cobalt painting in the background and he took one of me in front of an Ellsworth Kelly,” he explains. “I thought they looked horrible, but instead of trashing the shots, I split the photos in half then joined them together. It was intriguing, but I didn’t know why. It spoke to me in terms of how profound it is when two people try to bond through love, through relationships. As I reflected more, [I saw] how interesting it was in terms of same-sex relationships and how it made one face.”

De la Torre’s is an idea whose time has come. This month 100 of his portraits will be on display at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza’s Advocate Gallery. The show, curated by Marc ArraƱaga, also features the work of James Tomcavage, and is called “Fractured: Artists Breaking the Picture Plane.” The simplicity lies in the fact that none of the photos are compututized, but are all created with love, care, and an artist’s eye. “The whole thing is kind of mystical to me, because I never know what it’s going to look like. What I capture is intangible. The work becomes one face in the mind, and the mind really completes these photos. I don’t try to blur them together-I like the honesty of that, the clarity.”

An intimate 4 inches by 6 inches, the portraits are not celebrity-oriented (refreshing, to be sure), but more, according to de la Torre, “about the wonderful phenomenon of two people joining.” Indeed, some local heroes are on display, including performance artist/actor John Fleck, chef Michael Roberts, and L.A. Eyeworks’ hip co-owner Gai Gherardi. De la Torre, however, is more into the purity of the work rather than marquee-value names.

“The work is clear, focused, uncompromised. There are no pictures, either, of couples that have broken up.” De la Torre, who says he was greatly influenced by his former professor, artist John Baldessari, likens his work to cubist pieces. “I like that Picasso connection. The split-face thing isn’t original, but the application is original. After I put the two faces together, I had to reflect, ‘where did I come up whith this?’ I remembered a movie poster from the John Woo film, Faceoff. That was an interesting image. When Newsweek came out with a cover that was half Bush, half Gore, people were asking me, ‘Did you have anything to do with it?'”

De la Torre hopes that these works will one day become a book entitled Eyes in the Same Direction. In the interim, the practicing Buddhist (“I’m a very out Buddhist”), who has directed commercials, including a series for Bally’s Total Fitness, still has a day job. He is creative director for the Internet division of the spanish language, classified weekly newspaper, El Clasificado, owned by his family. He is also generous with his time and work: De la Torre was executive producer of the “Out” aution in 1992-1993, and frequently donates his images to charitable causes. “I have never been an artist who was motivated by making a buck,” he confesses, “For me, it’s always been an expression of who I am.”