Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Damián Ortega

From my review of “Damián Ortega: Do It Yourself” at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art:
At the 2003 Venice Biennale, Damián Ortega presented what has become his signature sculpture, “Cosmic Thing” (pictured below). He dissected a 1989 Volkswagen Beetle and suspended the individual parts in mid air so that they resemble a 3-D assembly diagram.

It was an eye-catching floating monument to the end of manufacture of the Bug (not to be confused with the "New Beetle," which has been produced since 1994). It spoke of Ortega's native Mexico City, where the car was ubiquitous, kept on the road with parts cannibalized from other VWs. Ortega, who now splits his time between Mexico and Berlin, also saw it as representing the legacy of the Nazis. Adolf Hitler commissioned the Volkswagen as an affordable, durable "people's car" — exactly why the Beetle thrived in Mexico. Dividing the car into its component parts was Ortega's metaphor for atoms that make up molecules, for rocks and gases that combine to form galaxies, for the relationship between individuals and their societies. But mostly, it's a catchy cool showcase for a famously cute car.

Included in "Do It Yourself," a 13-year survey of Ortega's art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, “Cosmic Thing” exemplifies both the strengths and the weaknesses of his style of conceptually based sculpture — and much conceptual art today.
Read the rest here.

Related: Our interview with Damián Ortega.

“Damián Ortega: Do It Yourself,” Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, Sept. 18, 2009, to Jan. 18, 2010.

Pictured from top to bottom: Damián Ortega, “False Movement (Stability and Economic Growth),” 1999 in foreground, in background from left to right “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Bridge,” 1997, “Cosmic Thing,” 2002, and “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Obstacle,” 1997; two photos of “Cosmic Thing,” 2002; “Union-Separation,” 2002, with “Skin,” 2006-07, in the background at left; “Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Bride,” 1997; “Belo Horizonte Project,” 2004; and Damián Ortega with “Belo Horizonte Project,” 2004. All photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.


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