Damián Ortega: News Becomes Art


Since the middle of last month, the Mexican-born artist Damián Ortega has been in London gathering up bits of news — newspaper stories, photojournalism, graphics — from local, national and international publications. He’ll now spend the next three months repurposing his stash as art, in the form of sculpture, installation and prototypes for future projects.

His free exhibition, “The Independent” (a reference to the British publication), will be on display from tomorrow through Jan. 16 at the Barbican Art Gallery (Barbican Center, Silk Street; 44-207-638-4141), and will continue to change and evolve on a regular basis.

The full blog post, on Ortega’s London exhibit, is at the NEW YORK TIMES. The post also continues here, after the jump.

Using news as artistic subject matter is nothing new for Mr. Ortega, who during the 1980s was a political cartoonist in Mexico City. As an artist, he’s been known for addressing and critiquing social and political issues, including capitalism, poverty and immigration, through sculpture that is both minimalist and eye-catching. In more tangible terms, he seems to enjoy taking things apart and reassembling them in visually explosive ways.

For his 2002 piece “Cosmic Thing,” he pulled apart a Volkswagon Beetle and suspended the pieces and parts in mid-air — almost like a life-sized do-it-yourself assembly instruction manual. In “Controller of the Universe” from 2007, pictured above, he took tools found at local junk shops and suspended them from the ceiling in an explosive form.

“For this project he explodes the form and function of the newspaper, transforming the ephemeral nature of the news into sculptural form on a daily basis,” said Alona Pardo, the exhibit curator. “The newspaper takes real situations and compresses them into digestible two-dimensional sound bites and column inches, and in ‘The Independent,’ Damián reconverts these two-dimensional stories back into three-dimensionality. In this way, Ortega questions and examines the role of the media in their representation of the truth.”

Given the site-specific nature of “The Independent,” many of the works will ultimately be destroyed, but some will be distributed throughout galleries in New York, Mexico City, São Paolo and London.

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