Review: Damián Ortega
Renowned Mexican artist's clay sculptures explore humankind's relationship to the natural world
This article is from 2016.
Not so much an exhibition as an intervention, many of the works in this show by the Mexican political cartoonist turned artist Damián Ortega were created onsite within the Fruitmarket Gallery, and appear to grow organically from the building. On the lower floor, 'Broken Sac' is one large, rough-hewn ball of earthen clay with 125 other smaller orbs around it, the connotation clearly natal. Alongside it, 'Eroded Valley'; five heaps of red clay bricks, painstakingly hewn to show a time-lapse erosion.
Elsewhere, clay is moulded into frozen 'waves', into white-painted mock icebergs, into a rain of small chips arranged on string hanging from the ceiling, and – most impudently – into a catalogue of tools, from arrowheads to USB sticks. The New Yorker commends Ortega for his 'striking deconstruction of the ordinary, a poetics of the quotidian', and that description resonates here. The show was literally built in Edinburgh, yet the clay used for these pieces was mined in Oaxaca, Mexico, making the same trip across the Atlantic as Ortega. The viewer may be put in mind of the act of mining, of moulding objects and tools from the clay, of attaching importance and meaning to the objects, of trying to communicate with them. It's a history of creation and migrating ideas, in understatedly simple style.
Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 23 Oct, free.