About Damián Ortega
Damián Ortega was born in Mexico City in 1967. He now divides his time between Mexico City and Berlin. He has gained a world-renowned reputation as his works have been exhibited internationally. His career in art began as a political cartoonist, a work that has influenced his more recent work, as is evident in the playful energy often found in his works.
What is Damián Ortega known for?
Ortega is a multitalented artist who is known for his installations, sculptures, videos and performance pieces. He takes inspiration from a variety of seemingly mundane objects and is known for his ability to transform the mundane into something that is anything but. Ortega’s work investigates the ways in which culture affects consumption, focusing on explicit economic, aesthetic and cultural situations.
Recurring issues and themes of his work
Ortega’s work includes photography, sculpting, collage creation, and film; all of which serve to draw the audience’s attention to the sociopolitical and very poetic dimensions of every day. It is evident that through his use of satire, Ortega is successful at pointing out the issues and other themes related to capitalism, poverty, globalization, westernization, and immigration.
‘Cosmic Thing’, 2002
“Cosmic Thing” (2002), is without a doubt one of his Ortega’s most celebrated works, in which he took apart a Volkswagen Beetle and re-composed it piece by piece, where it was suspended in midair from wires. It could be described as a hanging diagram where you can see each part of the vehicle, dissected for all to see.
What the Volkswagen Beetle symbolizes
The vehicle hangs from the ceiling in a satirical meditation on an evident symbol of mass production and, of course, westernization. The Volkswagen Beetle is without a doubt the most perfect symbol of both. The Volkswagen Beetle was originally developed in the 1930s in Nazi Germany and became known as both being efficient and affordable.
The Volkswagen Beetle after the Second World War
Following the Second World War, the Beetle had great manufacturing success, there were increasing safety regulations in Europe and the United States, and by the 1970s the Beetle was exclusively manufactured in Mexico and Brazil. This soon became the most used car in Mexico City as it was mechanically straightforward and cheap spare parts where always available allowing Do-It-Yourself repairs. This vehicle was not only accessible but functional and commonly seen on the streets around the world.
The dissected Volkswagen Beetle
However, in Ortega’s piece, as the Beetle suspends in the air, disassembled, it is somewhat shocking. This suspended car, looking like a puzzle that needs to be solved, seems so different than the Beetles commonly seen being driven on the streets; So much more empty and cold, yet undeniably mesmerizing.
Meaning of the work
Ortega’s ‘Cosmic Thing’ causes viewers to think about how several small pieces come together to create one whole thing. This is the case for mundane objects, images, and structures we see every day. Every structure we have ever seen and many of the objects we own are made of several small pieces pulled together to create a complete product for consumption. This once again draws into the ideas surrounding the ways in which culture affects consumption.
Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan
Malmø Kunsthal, Sweden
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
All images by Damián Ortega/kurimanzutto.com unless otherwise noted.
Exhibition at the Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan
Exhibition, performance & interview with Damián Ortega