Critics’ Picks

View of “Damián Ortega,” 2015

View of “Damián Ortega,” 2015

Rio de Janeiro

Damián Ortega

Museu de Arte Moderna
Av Infante Dom Henrique 85 Parque do Flamengo
April 16–June 14, 2015

Damián Ortega has dealt with matter and its physical properties for quite some time. A pupil of Gabriel Orozco, he dissects and reassembles objects of daily life, playing with their functionality and hidden energy. This interest is revealed by many of Ortega’s titles, such as Resting Matter, 2004 (a series of photographs of unfinished brick houses in Brazil), and Spirit and Matter, 2004 (an outdoor installation made in London), and the same word appears again in “The End of Matter,” the artist’s current exhibition. His material, now: an enormous Styrofoam block that he used to create copies of art-historically significant sculptures to scale. The site-specific installation is an ongoing project: A group of carnival’s artisans who ordinarily make Styrofoam sculptures for the parade floats are working inside the museum throughout the exhibition. Alberto Giacometti’s L’Homme qui marche I, 1960, and a Jeff Koons balloon dog were some copies ready in the first week—Orozco’s Modified Citroën DS, 1993, was later carved as Ortega’s tribute to his teacher.

Now his central object of reexamination seems to be no longer the material, but the realm of the museum space. By allowing his Styrofoam to represent the aesthetic of the white cube and positioning them beside the atelier where sculptures are made, he plays with the ideology of modern gallery spaces, bridging them to daily life. In this displaced context, Ortega’s monochromatic pieces also perhaps give form to André Malraux’s musée imaginaire: An unexpected equivalence emerges between these monochromatic sculptures. Emptied of their original functions and significances, they invite new narratives and categorizations.