Season 8 Preview: Damián Ortega

Production still from ART21’s series Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 8, 2016. © ART21, Inc. 2016.

Production still from ART21’s series Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 8, 2016. © ART21, Inc. 2016.

Damián Ortega was born in Mexico City in 1967. He uses objects from his everyday life—Volkswagen Beetle cars, Day of the Dead posters, locally-sourced corn tortillas—to make spectacular sculptures which suggest stories of both mythic import and cosmological scale. Ortega began his career as a political cartoonist and his works balance humor with incisive observations on political, social, and economic conditions.

In many of the artist’s sculptures, vernacular objects are presented in precise arrangements—often suspended from the ceiling or as part of mechanized systems—that become witty representations of diagrams, solar systems, words, buildings, and faces. These shifts in perception are not just visual but also cultural, as the artist draws out the social history of the objects featured in his sculptures, films, and performances. The intellectual leap between recycled quotidian objects and complex systems of thought is what lends Ortega’s work a humble yet profound poesis.


In the following preview from the Mexico City episode of Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Ortega reflects on the process and inspiration behind his 2007 installation Controller of the Universe.

“The idea, for me, was to permit the audience to come inside of the piece and feel how many possibilities,” says the artist, “and how we see everything through tools.”

Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century premieres Friday, September 16, 2016 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Mexico City airs Friday, September 23 at 10 p.m.


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