Brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre emerged from an elevator shaft as I walked through the entrance of the new Central Library on Thursday afternoon.
They’re working this week and next to install an intricate artwork, called “Corpus Callosum” in and around the library’s elevator ahead of its opening next month.
Eleven years ago, the brothers, who split their time mainly between San Diego and Ensenada, responded to a call for artists to dream up a project for a new Central Library. They drafted plans, met with a selection panel and were among four artist teams chosen.
Then more than a decade passed.
“This one got to a point where we quite literally forgot about it,” Einar de la Torre said. “We had to look again, like ‘Oh yeah, what did we want to do?’”
But in the meantime, the artists have changed their approach to some of the work they do. They’ve begun working in a new (to them) medium – “lenticular” prints. Those are multi-layered, ridged prints that change depending on the viewer’s position in front of them. (Kind of like the “holograms” from cereal boxes, though Einar said that’s a misnomer.)
The lenticular printing technology isn’t new, but printing multi-layered, digital images on it gives the illusion that each image is several inches deep. The brothers started using the technology in 2009 for a commission they got for a museum in San Jose.
The de la Torres built eight dioramas that include the prints and the brothers’ signature colorful blown glass figures. The panels will be installed in two 16-foot stacks vertically in the elevator shaft so that as library visitors ascend, they follow the scenes upward through the elevator’s glass walls.
While visitors wait for a ride, as the elevator doors come together and spread apart, viewers will see the juxtaposition of scenes from the natural world and from the human-made world – technology, nature, literature, buildings.
Inside, on one half, the dioramas will take the viewer from a scene of pipes under the street, up to street level and then up further into a skyline. On the “nature” side, they’ll ascend from underwater.
The title’s a metaphor for the work and for its place in the library. It also connects to the way the de la Torres think of life on either side of the border. From the city’s description of the work:
Corpus Callosum is the Latin name for the bundle of fibers that connects the left/logical and right/creative cerebral hemispheres within the human brain. The corpus callosum facilitates communication between the brain’s two hemispheres much like the elevator carries riders from floor to floor.
In June, Philadelphia artist Donald Lipski worked with a team to install his piece, a book-encrusted wall. Two more artists will install work in the library before it opens next month.