Extravagant and Rebellious Declamation: The Art of La Ele

por: Ralph Vazquez

La Ele is the union of brothers Bryan and Felipe Figueroa, an artist duo from Levittown, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Their design project began in 2006 and since then they have incorporated their designs done on t-shirts, stickers, drawings, graphic design, street art as well as museable art to the emergent art scene in the city of San Juan. They are among the favorites in the Bicijangueo, punk and indie circuits and they both enjoy and exercise a great creative freedom, which they integrate to the process of marketing of design objects and musical groups. Recently they have designed the cover art for the latest album by punk rock band Diente Perro, and they are situated in the marrow of an exhibition project at cART Watch, an new art space launched by artists Jaime Rodriguez and Martin Albarran. Their art yields like good detergent, and it captivates us because of its efficacy in facing issues pertaining quotidian struggles without the monotony of existential argumentation.

It is no secret that we live within a system that monitors our behavior, our activities and apparently anything that remits to what we believe and desire. The “Like” button exists in facebook and other Internet sites specifically to measure our interest in certain products or personalities. These are the mechanisms of oversight that exists surreptitiously engrained in daily life, and in the same manner the system deploys mechanisms whose sole purpose is to neutralize all that is not approved by the sociopolitical macrostructure. Theodor Adorno speaks about this in his philosophical work, where he posits, “advanced capitalism has managed to contain or liquidate any effort that could bring about its collapse”.


The Eyes of the Dog (2011), watercolor and ink on pape

La Ele creates a bestiary representative of the control forces that systems of social regulation deploy. Among their works we find formidable creatures, fantastic and in many ways mysterious. Bryan and Felipe create these with the intention of illustrating the monstrosity of actions by some politicians and other policy makers that guided by erred ideologies use inflammatory discourses to exacerbate antipathy and inequality, as well as unleash other evils like discrimination and prejudice. The art made by La Ele seeks to awaken the imagination of their public so that they may envision the sophistication of the orders that seek to manipulate our behavior and our beliefs; the representation of the ferocious serves to put a face on these otherwise invisible forces and their determination to eradicate anything anomalous or ‘different’.

La Ele are political artists in the sense that their art remits to and is invested in creating awareness about the demagogy and hypocrisy behind many people and public as well as private agencies. Hidden behind the macabre expressions of their characters lies an attitude, and in the study of that attitude we can extrapolate ourselves from their contours; we can face our relationship with he monstrous. Their art is interesting because in spite of the fact that they create monsters or mutants and criticize the system they do it in a humoristic way, and not in a threatening fashion. It is like screaming “boo!” to someone’s face to spook you rather than produce a work that is overbearingly profound and austere, like the traditional methodology of the left that is generally dismissed as propaganda by the ordinary media. Looking through one of their sketchbooks, the same that Bryan and Felipe dismiss as mere practice books, is fascinating because it is art made from an absolute spontaneous inspiration, with eraser marks, stickers and scraps, that is where the spectator may find the greatest satisfaction from the art produced by La Ele. Besides, who would not find a pair of bizarre and colorful lizards making out absolutely charming?! Pure genius.

By Angelina Stevcic & Ralph Vázquez-Concepción, curators of the Project Rat Trap

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