Interview: Guatemalan Artist Dario Escobar Recontextualizes the Everyday

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Image: Dario Escobar

Dario Escobar is no stranger to Los Angeles. The visual artist from Guatemala City created a piece for Poetics Of The Handmade, hosted at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2007 and also has a piece in the Futbol: The Beautiful Game exhibit currently at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

With Broken Circles, Escobar can now finally add a solo show in Los Angeles when it opens this Saturday May 17th at the Craft And Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). The artist has been back in town for the past week setting up his latest masterpiece, which draws influence from kinetic sculpture artist Carlos Cruz-Diez.

In this interview, we spoke about his days as an architect, his love of converting sports equipment into works of art, and car bumpers sculpted by destiny.

Tell me about your solo exhibit for CAFAM. What can visitors expect to see when they visit?

The truth is, having an exhibit in a museum dedicated to craft and folk art is an interesting experience for me. When [curator] Alma [Ruiz] invited me to create an exhibit for the museum, I found it very interesting and I decided to explore that space of folk, of craft, and of what we call fine art. The central piece, which is titled “Broken Circle,” was created with 2,500 red bicycle reflectors. They’re all red and they form a circle when you put four of them together. The idea is to create a kinetic mural.

Are you familiar with the works of Venezuelan artist [Carlos] Cruz-Diez? He’s a muralist who created murals meant to merge with the viewer. In this case, I’m referring to a geometric, abstract work of art that appears to be in motion. We’re doing the same with this piece via the reflectors with the light refracting off that object and creates unique sensations of movement.

The dialogue created by the exhibition is how a common object ceases to be a common object or merchandise and becomes the main material or piece for a work of art.

What about the car bumpers? There are two in the photos I saw that are part of the exhibit.

These were real accidents. The bumpers were from vehicles involved in collisions in Guatemala City. I’m very interested in buying new objects and converting them into works of art. For this piece, it’s the exact opposite because these are not new objects. These objects have their own history. It caught my eye because these are powerful stories. It’s a car accident. It’s much like how a sculptor breaks marble apart with a hammer to create what he envisions. These bumpers have been sculpted by destiny. That’s what makes this so interesting. It makes one think of the poetics of violence because, after I purchase these bumpers after their accidents, I return them to the factories where they’re constructed and have them reapply chrome plating. It’s a way of making the accident timeless. There’s one that looks like an “s.” It came from a vehicle that crashed into a post and was then struck by a truck.




You weren’t originally an artist. You studied to become an architect.

Right, I studied architecture because, well, obviously I wanted to become an architect. Along the way, I developed an interest in visual art. I eventually came to the point where I quit work as an architect in order to focus on my work as an artist. The difference is miniscule. When all is said and done, if you’re a creative person, then you’re going to be creative whether you’re a bank manager or taxi driver. Creativity is how an individual confronts the world around him.

I’m really glad I never studied Fine Arts because, had I studied it, I probably wouldn’t have the liberty to create the pieces I do as I wish.

I went through your body of work and many of your sculptures focus on athletic sports gear. Why are you drawn to sports equipment as material for your work?

I think that I’m creating a metaphor about life by using these pieces. I believe that many people view life as the biggest game of all and divide it into one of winners and losers. The equipment is just an excuse for this division. I’m interested in the equipment as it is, its specific function within society, and, most importantly, how these objects serve as an extension of the ideas of and necessities for humanity.

Beyond discussions about sports, victories, and losses, I think that what’s marvelous about these objects such as skateboards, footballs or basketballs. These are elements that, for all intents and purposes, are irrelevant as they are. What is interesting about art is that it has the power to add a sense of relevance to that which is irrelevant. I think anyone who sees a large cloud constructed out of 250 footballs will never look at a football the same way again.