LONDON—Playful large-scale installations, concrete and clay sculptures and two-dimensional forms in relationship and dialogue characterize Mexican artist Damián Ortega‘s major exhibition Play Time at White Cube (September 27 – November 12, 2017), which focuses on the themes of chance and game play, systems of knowledge—such as cosmology and genealogy and individual expression, the gallery writes.
“Science aspires to know everything… art pursues exactly the opposite: the subjectivity, the single phenomenon, the analysis of particularities, the facts in their context, personal experiences. Art is un-learning process.”
Featured image: Percentual constellation, 2017, Fired glazed clay from Zacatecas, Overall dimensions variable, Photo: Ben Westoby
Returning to key material like clay and cement combined with reusing ordinary objects and materials, Ortega’s investigations explore the reductive potential of material, dynamism and energy residing in inanimate objects. These investigations can be understood as what the artist calls ‘the flow of energy,’ which embraces distortions of material, celebrating their unfinished and raw quality. To Ortega, the accidents and processes themselves carry meaning.
Ortega uses clay from the region of Zacatecas in Mexico, in various material states, to create modular forms arranged in patterns and structures. Since both the objects and the glaze are hand-made, the sculptures are sensorial and tactile, embracing the unpredictable behaviour of this capricious, natural material.
This is Tomorrow writes In Percentual Constellation (2017), Ortega’s differently sized, white, glazed clay balls are arranged on the floor to extend outwards like a solar system.
In Variable Schema (2017) Ortega cut different sized balls in half and then re-joined them yielding uneven spheres that seem like aberrations or ‘rogue’ elements within a formal structure, This is Tomorrow adds.
Is this an amalgamation of multiple imperfect balls within a perfect system or is it a single sphere caught at different moments? Ortega still thinks like a political cartoonist. After all a cartoon strip is just a series of fixed images, whose familiar narrative allows us to understand it as a sequence of snapshots in time. In his hands, we are invited to view sculpture in much the same way. There is an aesthetic seduction in the composition of both clay and its glaze, and the result is indeed organic and gestural. Far from being static, these works convey the potential for continual evolution and change.
Ortega’s work questions the politics of everyday life, including composition and molecular behavior which place inanimate objects in the dynamics of property, and even hierarchy, which articulate matter and the relationships encapsulated within them
“It is better to consider that the fragment has a meaning by itself, a singular instinct, thus significance cannot be understood from a unitary logic. The logic of fragmentation is one of chance, accident, eventuality, contingency, ephemerality and incompleteness.”
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