Damian Ortega /   Damián Ortega

Mexico 1976

Installation, Sculpture, Video Art

Damian Ortega
Damián Ortega
July 29, 2013
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

The whole oeuvre of notable artist Damian Ortega is interwoven with a critical articulation of bureaucracy, capital, poverty, and megalomania. The artist appropriates strong and rather symbolical references from the history of mass – production respectively consumerism and by doing so he demystifies and intersects the complexity of political and social systems. The media often becomes overcome and subordinated to the concept of orchestrated explosion. Whether Ortega is dismantling the object or by building the constellation by using the same method, that performative gesture is without a doubt in service of precise and well thought representation of the narrative.

The artists work with the Beetle and other objects were on view in museum in 2013
Damian Ortega – Miracolo Italiano, 2005 – image via murmuredart

Struggling To Become An Artist

Damián Ortega was born in Mexico City in 1967. He was sixteen when dropped out of school to become a political cartoonist. That was a tough period for Mexico because of the devastating effects of an earthquake on economy and politics. Ortega was working for magazines and newspapers, satirizing political speeches and government missteps and had no formal art education. Then he met an influential artist Gabriel Orozco, who led an experimental art course in Mexico City in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Ortega and several other artists started attending a self-styled art school at Orozco’s house, which they called Taller de los Viernes (Friday Workshop).

The thin line between sculpture and installation

The use of his works can be arranged in terms of new and bettered museum news policy
Damian Ortega – Project for social housing, 2007 – image via artisshock.blogspot

The Influences and The Use of Materials

Besides being quiet socially and politically aware at the young age, already an Orozco student, Ortega started searching for his role models. The fascination with the work of Diego Rivera was present, but then the artist came in contact with the works of Marcel Duchamp. Influenced by the concept of ready –made and governed by the methodology of conceptual art, Ortega started producing his works by employing various materials like tools, golf balls, bricks, oil barrels, car parts and carefully sculpting or composing them in gallery space.

Ortega brings an old experiment to life, combining molten metal with ice

The news and terms about Ortega’s activity from 2007 onwards can be found on gallery home page
Damián Ortega – Melting Point, 2011 – image via artisshock.blogspot

Peculiar and Exquisite Works of Damian Ortega

His fascination with Duchamp’s art has reflected literally in his work América Letrina (American Latrine) from 1997. Namely, Ortega turned one of Duchamp’s iconic ready-mades into a photograph of a toilet whose bowl has been sculpted to form the shapes of Central and South America. In 1999, Ortega made the sculpture made out of three oil drums poised atop one another was titled In False Movement (Stability and Economic Growth). The work can be perceived as and allegory of model planets subjected to their precarious balance and eroded exteriors suggesting the underlying fragility of a consumer economy. The huge constellation constructed out of axes, chisels, hammers, and saws which are suspended from the ceiling reflects the everlasting human desire to shape and control the world.

Apparent fascination with systematization and dynamism

In the privacy of his studio the artist created much of works in between 2007 to 2013
Damian Ortega – Cosmic Thing, 2002 – image via influx

Cosmic Thing

Perhaps one of the most famous Ortega’s works is Cosmic Thing realized in 2002. The artist disassembled a Volkswagen Beetle and suspended each piece from the ceiling by wire. The whole scene is dazzling and reminiscent of slow motion explosion. Besides Ortega’s apparent fascination with cosmic order/chaos, it is an actual call for an observer to look beneath the shell of machine’s secret history. Namely, it was initially produced in Nazi Germany as the people’s car and manufactured only recently in Mexico and Brazil. Therefore, this work is an emblem of political ideology and suggests the intensity of relation between repressive authoritarian systems and capitalism.

The works of Damian Ortega are inclined in playfully critiquing

The view on new objects of damián Ortega are in privacy of his home from 2005 policy
Damian Ortega – The Rocket and the Abyss, 2015 – image via sandravierajurgens

The Astonishing Art Practice of Damian Ortega

During the course of time, Ortega has had solo exhibitions in almost all relevant institutions around the world spanning from Kunsthalle Basel, over Tate Modern and Centre Georges Pompidou, to Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions with special mention of Venice Biennale, São Paulo Biennial, and Havana Biennia. The artist was nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize and Preis Der Nationalgalerie für Junge Kunst and completed a residency with the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, Berlin. With his latest exhibition in Gladstone gallery called symbolically Textile, he introduced the new body of sculptural works in textile and ceramics with the focus on the method of production and again focusing on the systems and their meanings. Despite the rules of the art market, the ongoing activity of Damian Ortega has remained governed by the same politically driven attitudes of constant critique upon affects of consumerist society respectively capitalist matrix.

Damian Ortega lives and works in Mexico City and Berlin.

Featured image: Damián Ortega at his studio in Mexico City, Mexico, 2015 – image courtesy of WMICH
All images used are for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery MuseumSolo Group
2016TextileGladstone Gallery, BrusselsSolo
2016Damián OrtegaThe Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, United KingdomSolo
2016El cohete y el abismoPalacio de Cristal-Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, SpainSolo
20165th Anyang Public Art Project," APAP 5Anyang City, South KoreaGroup
2016The Agony and the EcstasyEs Baluard Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, Palma de Mallorca, SpainGroup
2016Variations on a Mexican ThemeThe Iberdrola Tower, Bilbao, SpainGroup
2016From here to there Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, Group
2016Xylañynu: taller de los viernesKurimanzutto, Mexico CityGroup
2016The way things goKunsthal KAdE Amersfoort, Amersfoort, NetherlandsGroup
2016Le pouvoir précieux des pierres MAMAC – Musée d’Art Moerne et d’Art Contemporain de Nice, Nice, FranceGroup
2015O Fim da MatériaMuseu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de JaneiroSolo
2015CasinoHangar Bicocca, Milan, [traveled to Malmö Art Museum, Malmö, SwedenSolo
2015Damián Ortega Galeria Fortes Vilaca, Sao Paulo, BrazilSolo
2015Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, the possibleSharjah, United Arab EmiratesGroup
2015Panorama High Line Art, New YorkGroup
2015Ape CultureHaus der Kulturen der Welt, BerlinGroup
2015UntitledAldeburgh Festival, SuffolkGroup
2015Eppur si muoveMusee d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, LuxembourgGroup
2015Invento | The Revolutions That Invented UsOCA – Ibirapuera Park, Sao PauloGroup
2015ÄppärätBallroom Marfa, Marfa, TexasGroup
2014Reading LandscapesKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2014Tools: Extending Our Reach Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New YorkGroup
2014Une histoire, art, architecture et design, des annees 80 a aujourd’hui Centre Pompidou, ParisGroup
2014El derrumbre de la estatua hacia una critica del arte public (1952-2014) Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo Muac, Mexico CityGroup
2014Carte Blanche, Kurimanzutto, Mexicoat Galerie Patrick Seguin, ParisGroup
2014Copper Crossing in contemporary art, design, technology and architectureTriennale di Milano, Milan, ItalyGroup
2014Under the Same Sun: Art From Latin America TodayThe Guggenheim, New YorkGroup
2014Love Story, Anne and Wolfgang Titze CollectionBelvedere, ViennaGroup
2013Cosmogonia DomésticaMuseo Jumex, MexicoSolo
2013ApestractionThe Freud Museum, LondonSolo
2013Damián Ortega: The Blast and Other EmbersThe Cleveland Museum of Art, ClevelandSolo
2013Damian OrtegaGladstone Gallery, New YorkSolo
2013Sculpture in the Close: Jesus CollegeJesus College, Cambridge, EnglandGroup
2013A Possibility of Escape. Storming the Reality Studio and Retaking the UniverseESPAI D’Art Contemporani De Castello, Castello, SpainGroup
201355th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di VeneizaGiardini – Arsenale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2013Every Day MattersFaurschou Foundation, CopenhagenGroup
2013The Hunter and the FactoryColección Jumex, Ecatepec, MexicoGroup
2012Belo Horizonte ProjectSavannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GeorgiaSolo
2012Traces of gravityWhite Cube, LondonSolo
2012The Black Whalte. 10th Anniversary of the MarcoMuseo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo, SpainGroup
2011Damián Ortega Kurimanzutto, Mexico CitySolo
2011Tool BitPinchuk Art Center, KievSolo
2011Antes de la ResacaMuseo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico CityGroup
2011Distant Star Regen Projects, Los AngelesGroup
2010The IndependentThe Curve, The Barbican, LondonSolo
2010New Balance Art Basel 41, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2010Ordinary MadnessCarnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaGroup
2010Post-Monument14th Biennale Internazionale di Scultura di Carrara, Carrara, ItalyGroup
2009MaterialistaGaleria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo, BrazilSolo
2009Damián Ortega: CAPITAL LessGladstone Gallery, New YorkSolo
2009Damián Ortega: Do It YourselfInstitute of Contemporary Art, BostonSolo
2008Damián OrtegaThe Centre Pompidou, ParisSolo
2008Mexico: Expected - UnexpectedColección Isabel y Agustin Coppel, La Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
2008An Unruly history of the Ready MadeColección Jumex, Ecatapec, MexicoGroup
2007Man is the Controller of the UniverseDAAD Gallery, BerlinSolo
2007Being Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, EnglandSolo
2007Nine Types of TerrainWhite Cube Gallery, LondonSolo
2007Obelisco transportablePublic Art Fund, Central Park, New YorkSolo
2007Inversión de PoderesProject for the University of Valencia, Valencia, SpainSolo
2007Sculptures In The ParkProject for Villa Manin, Passariano Codroipo, ItalySolo
2007Preis Der Nationalgalerie für junge kunstHamburger Bahnhof, BerlinGroup
2007Escultura Social: A New Generation of Art from Mexico CityMuseum of Contemporary Art, ChicagoGroup
2006Los Ángeles - Mexico. complejidades y heterogeneidadColección, Museo José Luis Cuevas, Mexico CityGroup
200610 Years Of Art & IdeaArt & Idea, ViennaGroup
2005Damián Ortega: The Beetle Trilogy And Other WorksGallery at REDCAT, Los AngelesSolo
2005The Uncertainty PrincipleUNTITLED Project Series, Tate Modern, LondonSolo
2005T1: Torino triennale Tremusei: The Pantagruel Syndrome Galleria Civica d‘Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino, Turin, ItalyGroup
2005September Back Up: Come Closer Isola Art Center, Milan, ItalyGroup
2004Damián OrtegaKunsthalle Basel, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2004Spirit and MatterWhite Cube, LondonSolo
2004Damián OrtegaMuseu de Arte de Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, BrazilSolo
2004Moby DickKurimanzutto at Mega Comercial Mexicana, Mexico CitySolo
2004Dedicated To A PropositionExtra City Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2004Specific Objects: The Minimalist InfluenceMuseum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CaliforniaGroup
2003A Materia A EnergiaFortes Vilaca, Sao Paulo, BrazilSolo
2003Elephant Juice (Sexo Entre Amigos)Kurimanzutto at Los Manantiales, Xochimilco, MexicoGroup
2003A Nova Geometria Galeria Fortes Vilaca, Sao Paulo, BrazilGroup
200350th Venice Biennale: Il Quotidiano Alterato Venice, ItalyGroup
2002Cosmic ThingInstitute of Contemporary Art, PhiladelphiaSolo
2002Damián Ortega D’Amelio Terras, New YorkSolo
2002DO IT! Artist project for Frieze Magazine, March Issue 65Solo
2001AnimationP.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New YorkGroup
2001SquattersCasa de Serralves, Porto, Portugal [traveled to: Witte de With, RotterdamGroup
2002Sublime Artificial La Capella, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2002The Air Is BlueCasa Barragán, Mexico CityGroup
2000Galerie KurimanzuttoGalerie Chantal Crousel, ParisGroup
2000Guarene 2000Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, ItalyGroup
2001Alguem Me SoletraCasa de Serralves, Porto, PortugalSolo
1999Yo y Mi CircunstanciaMontreal Museum of Fine Arts, MontrealGroup
1999Bienal Internacional De FotografiaCentro de la Imágen, Mexico CityGroup
1998Yesterday Begins Tomorrow: Ideals, Dreams and Contemporary AwakeningsBard Center for Curatorial Studies and Hessel Museum of ArtGroup
1998Prepositions IIMusée Departemental d´Art Contemporain, Palace de Rochechouart, FranceGroup
1997Reglas E InstintosGalería Art & Idea, Mexico CitySolo
1997Lines Of LossArtists Space, New YorkGroup
1997Instalaciones Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Oaxaca, MexicoGroup
1997Creacion En MovimientoMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo Carrillo Gil, Mexico CityGroup
1997MercurioComunicacion Y Dinero, Galería de Arte Contemporáneo, Guadalajara, MexicoGroup
1995Nuevas Practicas Colectivas Galería Arte Contemporáneo, Guadalajara, MexicoGroup
1995(En Transito) Señales PresentesIntercambio artístico, Mexico and Buenos AiresGroup
1995Deux Ex Machina Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico CityGroup
1994Beelden Buiten 1994Tuin de Brabandere, Tielt, BelgiumGroup
1994Tento OnstellingGalería C.D., Tielt, BelgiumGroup
1994CronologiasTemístocles #144, Mexico CityGroup
1991Fuerza VivaGalería Etnia, Mexico CitySolo