“I think that if we could see an object from the inside with all its atoms, it would be like seeing inside a ray of light. . . . with everything moving! . . . Reality relies upon relations and not upon substances.”
—Damián Ortega (Cat. Champ de vision, p. 82. Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2008)
The third contemporary art installation in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Glass Box gallery space centers around Damián Ortega’s (Mexican, b. 1967) impressive, suspended sculpture The Controller of the Universe. Ortega works in different media, focusing on everyday objects and materials—from bricks and glass to pick-axes and tortillas—playing with and revealing their sometimes hidden, sometimes forgotten, and often neglected contexts of usage and meaning. Through the way the work is installed—with its parts that seem propelled outward from an invisible center into the surrounding space—each tool becomes one element of a bigger event. Each tool is a fascinating and threatening element in an orchestrated explosion that metaphorically connects to ideas of creation, formation, and destruction.
Born in Mexico City in 1967, Damián Ortega is the leading Mexican artist of the generation that emerged in the wake of the influence of Gabriel Orozco and Francis Alÿs. He first came to widespread attention at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, with Cosmic Thing, a Volkswagen Beetle dismantled and suspended from the ceiling, an ironic deconstruction of one of the cult objects of Mexican consumer culture. His first major individual exhibition in Europe was held at the Kunsthallle Basel, Switzerland, in 2004. In 2007 Ortega presented his installation Man is the controller of the universe at the DAAD Gallery. Ortega had important solo exhibitions at SCAD Museum of Art (2013), Pinchuk Art Centre (2011), ICA Boston (2009), Centre Pompidou (2008), White Cube (2007), and Tate Modern (2005). After a long stay in Berlin, he currently lives and works in Mexico City.