Damián Ortega’s work explores specific economic, aesthetic and cultural situations and, in particular, how regional culture affects commodity consumption.
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. Ortega's sculptures, installations, videos and actions are inspired by a wide range of mundane objects, from pick-axes to bricks, rubbish bins and 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 and re-composed it piece by piece, suspended from wires 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, spelled out the letters of the work’s title, playing with the idea of optical and physical illusion.
In 2010, for his exhibition The Independent at The Barbican Curve Gallery, Ortega reverted back to his days as a political cartoonist and set himself the challenge of making a new artwork each day for the period of one month, based on a daily news item. Inspiration came from a headline, photograph, cartoon or graphic and ranged in subject from flooding in Pakistan to an Arsenal football game.
Damián Ortega was born in 1967 in Mexico City and currently lives and works in Mexico City and Berlin, Germany. He has exhibited internationally including solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2002), Kunsthalle Basel (2004), Tate Modern, London and Museu da Arte Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2005), The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, The Gallery at REDCAT, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2008), Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2009), Barbican Curve Gallery, London (2010), The Freud Museum, London (2013) and the Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2014). Group exhibitions include the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), 'Made in Mexico', Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003) and the São Paulo Biennial (2006).