Rebels I Know
Community exists in queer time. In other bodies of work, Boris Torres has pulled from old physique magazines and lesbian porn to claim anonymous figures for the present. They were rebels he did not know but attempted to through the act of painting. He often paints these figures floating on a white page, removed from their context as if to float through time. The impulse to look backwards is part of how we create histories for ourselves. It is the magic act of pulling something out of thin air, just like creating community on a blank page.
Rebels I Know also exists in a queer time and space. Queer time, distinct from queer identity, is a way to move beyond the to-do lists and everyday hustle to connect more deeply to parts of ourselves in others. Unlike earlier work, the community Torres represents comes from his own life. This act of painting portraits to connect with community feels like a necessary temporal intervention. Documenting our lives has become both compulsive and extremely public. We take pictures of people we know to say something about ourselves. This is not inherently good or bad, as is the case for most technology, but the pace at which we do it facilitates shallow bonds. By asking people to sit for a portrait as a way of spending time together, Torres is slowing us down.
Many of the portraits reference the artist’s studio, making the context personal. The frenetic pencil lines juxtaposed with the brightly colored swooshes of paint like a great conversation. Torres lets you in through his use of material. The poses of participants vary greatly, from a naked figure with long hair swaying to someone staring directly at the viewer with the type of directness that is reserved for the closest of friends. Sometimes we mistake the word community to mean sameness. These paintings gently remind us though that community is about difference and what emerges when we are able to make space for our idiosyncrasies to shine through. This growing body of work brilliantly embodies the feelings of community.
Torres’s move between the anonymous and the intimate reflects queer time. Making community requires looking in all directions, including forward, however hesitantly we might do that in the face of precarious conditions and now so clearly planetary peril. Torres is archiving a moment in time and space through the rebels he knows — honoring their resistance with his eloquent brushstrokes, and fostering the personal connections that underpin it.
—Essay by Martabel Wasserman
About the Artist
Boris Torres was born in Ecuador and moved to Brooklyn as a child. Over the last 15 years, he has been creating work that explores identity and history, and his personal experiences growing up as a queer immigrant in New York. He received an MFA from Brooklyn College, an MA in Art Education from City College of New York, and a BA from Parsons School of Design. Torres’s work has been part of numerous museum and group shows, including Art Aids America (Bronx Museum of Art, Tacoma Art Museum), Found (Leslie-Lohman Museum), and Self-Consciousness (Curated by Peter Doig and Hilton Als, Veneklasen Werner Gallery, Berlin). Previous solo shows have been held at Bowman Gallery, Los Angeles; Prinz Eisenherz, Berlin; La Petite Mort Gallery, Ottawa, Canada; and La Naranjilla Mecánica, Quito, Ecuador.