Rubén Torres Llorca / Círculos de Fuego curated by Hortensia Montero 

Rings of Fire: A tale of Life.

January 20, 2017


"Círculos de Fuego", personal exhibition by Rubén Torres Llorca presented by the Kendal Art Center (KAC), is an immersive installation that incites us to an existential journey not without risks and vicissitudes. Making masterly use of icons deeply rooted in our collective imagination and modelers of our individual and social consciousness, "Circles of Fire", establishes a direct dialogue with the receiver that travels through each of the (somewhat Dantean) circles Make up this sample. Art, related legends, daily references and poetry are intermingled in a biting and sensitive proposal at a time. "Circles of Fire" is a journey without return that forces us to review our own itinerary for that risky journey that is our way through life. Rubén Torres Llorca (Havana, 1957) is one of the founding figures of the so-called New Cuban Art Movement that revolutionized the landscape of the visual arts on the island during the 1980s. His work, which is profoundly conceptual, is characterized by a Critical anthropological view of contemporary society.

Rings of Fire: A tale of Life.

by Janet Batet

“We are everything and we are nothing.”

Charles Bukowski


Life is like a circus. We are immerse –wanted or not- in an ever-changing representation that pushes us to play/change roles as soon as the new setting emerges and, most of the time, we are not ready for the newfangled backdrop. If we had the time to look back in retrospective to ourselves, we would discover –not without disappointment and fear- that we have been most of our lives like beasts in a circus: forced constantly to break through rings of fire, assisted by some ineffectual choreographic movements previously rehearsed and -mostly- hurried pirouettes improvised at the last minute. This hasty act in which our existence takes place presents with a core difference with respect to the model of circus: We are performing our act eyes folded; without never reaching to see openly the ringmaster of this frightening representation.  We are everything and nothing. 


“Circulos de fuego” (Rings of Fire) is an immersive installation that urges us into an existential journey not without risks and vicissitudes.   With a masterful use of icons deeply rooted in our collective imaginary and modelers of our social and individual consciousness, Ruben Torres-Llorca creates a maze-like environment that forces the viewer into a quest throughout each of the many circles making this show.  Art, legends, literature, and references to daily life are intertwine in this fascinating visual thriller that pushes us into a travel without return that revises our own itinerary during that precarious journey that is our passage through life.




“We are walking as if on a minefield. 

We are aware that the field is full of explosives, 

but we can’t tell where there be an explosion and when.”

Sygmunt Bauman


Let’s faced, we are shaped by fears. Since our earliest childhood we are fed with legends, folktales, games that model our being by planting the seed of fear. We learn to follow authority, to conduct ourselves according to very specific expected social roles, and to behave accordingly. “Figure 1”, the overture piece of the show, resumes this fragile, frightening condition. Standing in front of us, Little Red Riding Hood –like image in the mirror- quietly looks at us.  Behind her (and us), the always dreaded forest (the dark, the unknown, the threat) and, of course, the wolf (the fear per se). This is the beginning of our journey. 


Successive circles of fire -hypnotic mandalas- present us with countless role models in this lifetime expedition. This “gallery of portrait” of socially constructed entities contrasts with some hermetic clues that are offered to us like unintelligible enigmas. Occupying the center of the main gallery, three installations seem to resume some imponderable trues: Keys to unexpected doors. It is not a coincidence that the pedestals supporting these sort of riddles are edified with books. Actually, text is one of the main components of this exhibition, underlying the base of our socially constructed reality versus the subjective experience of everyday life. 


“Figure 17” marks the half of our travel: essential impasse. Media, ideology and generational alterity resume the “given forces acting on a body”. This indulgent yet disturbing image embodies the filial relationship (the family) as the very first modeler of our individual and social identities. This picture is not to be mistaken: We are not kids anymore. We are now the parental figure passing on all our fears into our kids. The show must go on. 



Passes the caged beast by so many ring of fire!

Ariel Rot


The second floor of the gallery resumes our adult life and that moment of consciousness (fatal enlightenment) that makes us aware about the real meaning of our existence. All the pieces of the thriller are falling into place. Torres Llorca is a very well-informed alter ego that demands from us total awareness of our senses. The multiple, layered references throughout the show  

–like in real life- will get accessible in very different degrees to each receptor depending on its own personal background and experience.  The end, is a fateful rituornelle. It is not a coincidence that the end of the show in a sort of spiral is exactly located over our very beginning: the snake eating its own tail. 


There, “Figure 23”, the final and definitive clue: The lion. Another mirror. The hunting trophy of that ringmaster that we will never know. The jump into the void. 

Janet Batet

Everglades, winter, 2017

El orden de las cosas

por Hortensia Montero 

Artista aculto, que ha transitado con éxito a lo largo de una fructífera trayectoria profesional, disfrutando del goce estético y del reconocimiento nacional e internacional, Torres Llorca propone su agudeza conceptual, expresada con sencillez y elegancia. Círculos de fuego constituye la síntesis de los fundamentos conceptuales de su poética. La repetición del elemento circular- de papel periódico, o de color negro o blanco- establece la secuencia narrativa de los personajes o animales representados en delicados papeles recortados, de color gris claro, que ratifican su apego a lo artesanal y la teatralidad de su imaginario. 

Dos obras pictóricas rectangulares, enmarcadas con un listón, -una, representa los centímetros; y otra, las pulgadas- denotan una originalidad, que las enaltece. El tema de La caperucita roja, en una composición; en la otra, se lee: Given Forces acting on a body. Ambas, provocando el extrañamiento con escenas que contrastan con la atracción del marco.  

El aura de las carismáticas esculturas, dispuestas sobre pequeñas mesas, contribuye a crear una ambiente sugerente, enigmático y misterioso. Fluye una ironía subyacente, propia de su discurso estético y evocador de su apego a la posmodernidad con la pérdida de los valores y la deshumanización de las relaciones. Persigue destrozar al icono, se apoya en cuadros, libros y objetos, símbolos que, al crear su propia dramaturgia, se desafían los unos a los otros. 

Revela una cosmogonía singular, evocadora del mensaje críptico de un discurso que parafrasea la vida real, centrado en un universo conceptual que acrecienta el potencial semiótico de la realidad objetiva por la reiteración de elementos, la atmósfera lograda, la energía que fluye de los exponentes y la presencia rectora y cómplice de cuadros, círculos, esculturas y libros. 

Sobre un pequeño bastidor circular, cubierto con papier maché, pinta un león. Con letras recortadas en papel negro, se lee: Pasa la fiera enjaulada por tantos aros de fuego, extraído de un verso de José Martí. El texto niega la imagen confortable y agradable de la figura del animal. Esta ruptura rompe el sentido de los intereses estéticos, artísticos, literarios y conceptuales de la imagen y provoca la pérdida de la magia intelectual del mensaje, cuya complejidad ideológica descansa en este axioma: para destruir al icono se trata de romper todo lo que significa el cuadro como objeto, que constituye un elemento efímero dentro del conjunto. 

La instalación nos revela una sentencia apoyada “en el orden de las cosas”. La belleza contenida en las imágenes trasluce situaciones extremas. Esta obra constituye una lección de la subsistencia en el mundo actual. Las actuaciones de los personajes en cada imagen nos remiten a una realidad de enfrentamiento, de beligerancia y de fuerza contenida entre los seres humanos. Las apariencias no constituyen la realidad. La simbología en cada pieza es concluyente. No hay escapatoria. Los visitantes abandonaran la sala de exhibición convencidos de que el círculo de fuego nos acecha… a todos, en cualquier lugar.

Hortensia Montero M.A. Master in Art History from the University of Havana. General Contemporary Museology, Louvre Museum, Paris. Contemporary Art Curator, National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba. Associate professor, University of Havana. Author of the book "The 70s: Bridge for breaks". Exercising the research and curatorial work of Cuban art (1975-2016). National Curatorial Award, Havana, 2003 and 2006.

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Figure 17, 2010

Acrylic on canvas 36" x 36"