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A real working-class artist, Ruben Ochoa

March 6, 2010 | 10:30 am

Rube Ruben Ochoa’s East L.A. studio, housed in a nursery that’s been vacant for years next to a Mexican restaurant, is a rustic affair — more of a shell than a building, really, with chicken wire covering several holes in one wall and a port-a-potty installed in the back.

“It has one working light,” he says with a laugh, gesturing to several fluorescent bulbs overhead. “All these are just fake. Two power outlets. I can power the light, but then when I power the machine, that light flickers.”

The machine — a squat, metal box with several spool-shaped rollers on top — is a rebar bender, and the only piece of major technology visible, save the laptop that’s open on one of the tables. Most of the floor space is taken up by a piece called “three the hard way” — three arcing metal poles on which are suspended rough chunks of seemingly uprooted concrete — that’s destined for the collection of the Miami Art Museum. In the lot behind the studio looms an immense piece made for a solo show opening at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in March:  11 individual pallets suspended 10 to 16 feet off the ground on spindly, wavering rebar legs, like a throng of enormous, swaying spiders.

Ochoa, who has a soft-spoken, slightly bashful manner but a broad smile and a quick laugh, betrays a clear affection for the building as he and Cam La, his partner and a central member of his team, show me around.

To read my Arts & Books section report from the studio of this up-and-coming SoCal sculptor, click here.

--Holly Myers

Photo: The artist, and new work. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times