Damian Ortega (b.1967, Mexico)

Born in 1967 in Mexico City, Ortega is one of the leading Mexican artists of the generation that emerged in the wake of the influence of Gabriel Orozco and Francis Alÿs. Ortega studied with Orozco in the informal studio class established in the older artist’s atelier in the late 1980s. He began his career as a political cartoonist and his art has the intellectual rigour and sense of playfulness often associated with his previous occupation. He creates sculptures, installations, videos and actions inspired by a wide range of mundane objects, from golf balls and pick-axes to bricks, rubbish bins and even tortillas, all subjected to what has been described as Ortega’s characteristically “mischievous process of transformation and dysfunction.”  

In Cosmic Thing (2002), one of his most celebrated works, Ortega disassembled a Volkswagen Beetle car and re-composed it piece by piece, suspended from wire in mid-air, in the manner of a mechanic’s instruction manual. The result was both a diagram and a fragmented object that offered a new way of seeing the “people’s car” first developed in Nazi Germany but now produced en masse in his native Mexico. In Spirit (2005), Ortega constructed a series of architectural spaces using recycled materials which, when viewed from above, spelt out the letters of the work’s title, playing with the idea of optical and physical illusion.  

He has exhibited internationally including solo exhibitions at the Barbican Curve Gallery, London (2010), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2009), the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2008), the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2007) the Gallery at REDCAT and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2005), Tate Modern, London (2005), Museu da Arte Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2005), Kunsthalle Basel (2004) and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2002). Group exhibitions include the São Paulo Biennial (2006), Made in Mexico, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003) and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).

Ortega, Damian b.1967

related artists / Mexico / Latin America