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 where he lives and works. He has exhibited widely including solo exhibitions at Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid (2016); Casino Luxembourg and Malmö Konsthall (2016); Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2015); Museo de Arte Moderno, Rio de Janeiro (2015); Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2014); The Curve, Barbican Center, London (2010); The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2009); and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2008). Group exhibitions include Venice Biennale (2013 and 2003); Havana Biennale (2012); Berlin Biennial (2006); Sydney Biennale (2006); São Paulo Biennale (2006); and Gwangju Biennale (2002).