Casa Ysasi is an LA-based studio, started by two brothers born in Mexico City. Their multi-cultural background and multi-faceted creative interests fueled long conversations that later turned into exciting collaborations. Featuring artisans from Oaxaca as well as original studio works focused on lighting and shadow, they enjoy casting a wide net under the single umbrella of Casa Ysasi to fuel their creative ambitions. See our interview with Iñigo and Patricio Hernandez-Ysasi down below.
IY: It started a while back on a road trip driving cross country from Miami to Los Angeles. Pato was moving to LA to pursue photography and we took our time with a seven-day road trip, getting into deep conversations about things we're both passionate about. We knew we wanted to start a company together as an umbrella for all our creative pursuits and shared curiosities. Organically over time, we saw a through-line between our general interests and predominantly it focused around lighting. When creating our messaging around Casa Ysasi, it became obvious that lighting is the belly button of our projects and where it all stems from as of late. Obviously Pato has his style, and I have my style, but we see a lot of balance between us and it makes sense to have this creative outlet together as brothers and as best friends.
ET: Iñi, you're the older brother and Pato, you're younger. Besides that, can you share more about your backgrounds?
PY: We were born in Mexico City and then moved to Miami. The rest of our family— grandparents, cousins and everyone else is back in Mexico City. My dad says, the good thing about Miami is how close it is to the United States [laughs]. Growing up I had a soccer coach that didn't speak any English, he only spoke Spanish. We didn't realize how unique our experience in Miami was until we both went to college elsewhere.
ET: The studio represents your creative ideas and interests, but it also reflects your heritage. How important is it to showcase Mexican artists, and how did you meet the Oaxacan artists you currently work with through Casa Ysasi?
PY: We didn’t go to Oaxaca, seeking out artists to collaborate with, it happened serendipitously. Both of us grew up in a household that was very Mexican. My dad loves art, so our house is full of alebrijes and Latin American artists. My mom is an architect, and she would always show us the work of Mexican architects like Luis Barragán and Ricarado Legorreta. Couple that with what’s happening at the moment in Mexico where many people, especially in LA, will say they love Mexico City and the art scene. Also, as we both got immersed in our own practice, our influences came from a lot of places in Latin America, but predominantly Mexico—and Oaxaca kept surfacing as a place to visit. Similar to Japan, there are communities within Oaxaca that focus on a specific craft and it’s often multi-generational. One of the artists we work with, Isaías Jiménez, his family originated the tradition of tallado de madera, which is known as alebrijes in Oaxaca. His father would go to Monte Albán, the famous ruins and sell his sculptures there. It's fascinating to learn the kind of the crossover that exists between crafts, artisanal work, and art.
IY: Karla, we met because we kept seeing her lights in different spaces on our visit to Oaxaca. Half of the people we talked to couldn't tell us who was making them and finally one person knew, and we reached out. Karla didn't respond for three days, and finally before leaving to the airport, we managed to meet her for 30 minutes and found her to be a very pure artist. It wasn't until the second or third trip back that we started establishing a relationship with artisans. Our intention wasn't to meet artists, but it was to be inspired and curious, and use Casa Ysasi as a platform to bring their art to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise see it. Oaxaca is very special to us and there's many more amazing cities in Mexico. We've barely scratched the surface on artists in Mexico.
ET: Is it the first time for these artists to show in the U.S.? How would you describe your relationship to their work?
PY: Karla had not sold any products in the US, and she just got rid of her gallery representation in Oaxaca. Isaías has shown in the United States. There is a film made about his father, and the origins of their practice, and recently they’ve been invited by the Japanese government to do a workshop. Although in some ways we function like a gallery, because we're bringing artists' work and selling it, it’s not a representation in the traditional sense, where they're part of a roster of artists that we carry, and they make work and we sell it. It’s more of a collaboration. With Isaías, we made nine alebrijes together where we expressed our take on these traditional figures with colorways we chose. With Karla, we wanted to make a lamp together that shared parts our our studio and her studio. And so both projects were really collaborations, and we’re not trying to be their representatives or agents in any way.
ET: We're excited to show some original works by your studio like your Ysasi lights. Iñigo, how did you come to your light designs? What were you trying to capture?
IY: I've had a recent fascination with lights the last six years—obsession of sorts—and have been trying to reinvent or create lights in a way that makes them feel unique. One of the first projects we did for Casa Ysasi came from seeing the sunrise when it was was pitch black at night. We took a photo of the horizon and pulled the colors from that horizon and made a neon tube with the different color variations. From that we created our first piece, which was basically a horizon with a neon tube in the middle. Very simple, yet it's many conversations, many notes and prototypes, many nights at the studio, conversations, arguments—and we've made six in the series so far. This light box when you see it during the day is non-intrusive, it's just a box on the wall, but when you turn it on at night, it really transforms a whole room.
ET: Pato, you'll be bringing a photograph to the event. What kind of photography will you bring and how do you incorporate photography with your studio?
PY: I really love street photography. I love the idea of it being an excuse to meet people, to get out and shoot. I shoot film and when you develop your film, things come to light that you didn't realize when you were shooting. A lot of photographers, especially those who shoot black and white, will speak about the importance of light and shadow. And so there's that thread again: light. When I'm photographing so much of what I'm drawn to is the way light reflects off surfaces or in the space. And so it's interesting, Iñi creates a light source in a space, and in my photography I'm seeking it. The photos featured at Casa Ysasi are connected to that first trip to Oaxaca, which is the inspiration for this whole studio. One of the reasons we wanted photography for our studio is because of how important storytelling is–similar to Tortoise. With Casa Ysasi, this is the storytelling of our own studio, as well as the artists that we've met. And we want to keep telling stories in different mediums like photography and video—all with the central theme being light.
Thank you Casa Ysasi! Tortoise community, please join us May 5th - 7th, Friday to Sunday, to celebrate Cinco De Mayo with a special double feature event presenting Mano Del Sur and Casa Ysasi. The event will be sponsored by Madre Mezcal and tacos will be sold outside on Wade blvd by one of our favorite taco vendors. We'll see you there!