To understand Damián Ortega’s exhibition at Fortes Vilaça, we must look back to his exhibition at Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art (MAM) earlier this year: “The end of matter,” where he presented several Styrofoam sculptures—replicas of famous pieces from different periods of art history—created according to his instructions by sculptors of the Rio Carnaval. In “Paisagem” [Landscape], Ortega develops two large-scale installations with the same technique: “Abertura” [Opening] and “Paisagem.”
“Paisagem” is the first piece we see, its little balls of Styrofoam visible from the lobby. When the viewer descends to the exhibition space, he finds himself in a fake snowy landscape, with a single path that, when followed, will lead to a Styrofoam white cube, whiter than the gallery’s white cube itself. When walking around this cube, a grotto-like hole is seen in it—the condensed source of all the Styrofoam now sprawled all around the exhibition space, a reminder of the transformation of matter.
Installed in the gallery’s high-ceiling lobby, “Abertura” recreates in Styrofoam and plaster a section of the roof above the rooftop terrace of the Bretagne building, a design of sinuous forms with circular openings that allow the passage of light, air and rain. In the exhibition, however, these openings give passage to nothing but the gallery’s ceiling. Dislocated, the inside-outside flow that the openings should allow is contextually shut, and its organic design is confronted by the gallery’s white-cubist austere architecture. By knowing a bit about the history of the building—designed by architect João Artacho Jurado in 1958 and inspired by Hollywood dreams for his upper-middle-class clientele—the installation gains a political connotation, of the Brazilian all-fearing-middle-class self-imposed confinement, and of the keeping of appearances, so essential for our social order.
The installations establish a deep dialectical relation: a landscape created by the deconstruction of the Styrofoam white cube, and an architecture thoroughly designed and built by the addition of materials. More than opposites, they constantly re-signify the other; after all, landscapes are already categories of culture, and there’s much of contingency in all of our projects.
Through August 29 at Galeria Fortes Vilaça, Rua Fradique Coutinho 1500, São Paulo.
Caroline Carrion (1986) is a São Paulo-based curator and art critic. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Sao Paulo, where she is currently pursuing a second degree in philosophy, after having studied management et communications intercuturelles at Université Paris IV (Sorbonne). Caroline has been working in the art field since 2008 in different segments of the market, such as cultural centers, museums and art galleries. She has developed and coordinated the production of exhibitions, integrated publishing projects on contemporary art and has extensive experience with cultural journalism and institutional communication. In 2015, she curated “Eccoci!,” an urban-intervention project by artist Berna Reale held in public areas of scarce touristic access in Venice, during the opening and closing weeks of the 56th Venice Biennale; and was one of the emergent guest curators of the Prêmio CNI SESI SENAI Marcantonio Vilaça para as Artes Plásticas. She is the author of texts for exhibitions and artists books, presented in Brazil and abroad; and is a member of the PIPA prize 2016 Nominating Committee. She regularly writes for Newcity Brazil, and collaborates with the contemporary art platform My Art Guides.
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