Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 2006–2007
Damián Ortega from Mexico has left visible traces in Berlin – with a number of highly regarded exhibitions and as one of the finalists in the "Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst" competition, the highest valued prize for young artists. The artistic climate in Berlin had inspired him enormously, nowhere else was art taken as seriously as in Berlin, says Ortega, who was a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme in 2006–2007.
I'm interested in those very everyday attempts to produce meaning.
Damián Ortega, born in Mexico in 1967, stems from a family of artists and intellectuals. His career began with caricatures, a field of art with a long tradition in Mexico. At 16 years of age, he left his parental home, became an apprentice among cartoonists and sculptors, and made ends meet with casual work. He spent several years in Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. In Rio, he mainly studied the infamous suburbs, the favelas, which are so typical of the major cities of South America. Today, he describes these experiences as important for his work. He also feels an affinity with the work of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whose politically inspired murals belong to the icons of Mexican art.
Ortega celebrated his international breakthrough with his sculpture Cosmic Thing at the Venice Biennale in 2002. It shows a VW beetle, a symbol of Mexico's industrial production, broken down into its individual parts, floating in space held just by threads. The use and deconstruction of everyday objects, often charged with political meaning and ironically disrupted, has since become part of his artistic programme. Ortega uses sculptures, but more frequently turns to installation, photography or video performance. "With my work I want to understand the whole setting in which I live," says Ortega. He's interested in the "very everyday attempts to produce meaning".
His first major individual exhibition in Europe was held at the Kunsthalle Basel in 2004. In Berlin, Ortega, together with Japanese artist Shimabuko, celebrated a Fish & Chips performance in which Ortega's mobile seat sculptures contributed the dynamic element. 2007 saw Ortega present his installation "Man is the controller of the universe" at the DAAD-Galerie. It shows an exploding cloud of used tools which the artist bought from Berlin's flea markets. Here, again, Ortega's principle comes to the fore, namely grouping together objects of everyday life in new ways and setting these in different social contexts.
After completing his DAAD scholarship, globetrotter Damián Ortega initially settled in Berlin. Meanwhile, however, he is at home not only in Berlin, but also in his home town Mexico City. His works can now be seen in international museums and galleries. In 2015, for example, he was represented by an individual exhibition in Italy for the first time.