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March 15, 2022 – April 23, 2022
Gladstone 64
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Gladstone is pleased to announce an exhibition of new works by Damián Ortega. Known for his uncanny ability to transcend ordinary objects into entities with complex narratives, the artist presents a series of sculptural masks that explore the significant social, economic, and personal narratives embedded in the ephemera of the everyday. Throughout history, masks have played a crucial role in how human nature, identity, and culture are studied and understood. For this exhibition, Ortega has created a body of new works over the past year in a cathartic response to the pandemic, questioning what faces, characters, and personalities can build and become. Made with found materials that are staples of Mexican life, including guaje, yute, and maize tortillas, the masks on view are expressive and eloquent examples of both a socio-political critique and an intimate self-reflection. 


A few months ago, I read something that felt to me like a new reality: the need to go back to artmaking in the kitchen, optimizing what we have on hand in the fridge, or in the garden. An art of the immediate, which resulted from improvisation and acknowledging needs, that affects our most nuclear and close community. An art that was intimate and self-referential, like jokes among friends, or spectators on board the same boat in which we ship-wreck along with the ghosts and demons that accompany us.

The need to share and dialogue led me to start making up characters. Masks always entail a narrative and a dramaturgy. They are complex characters, and I would say they have a life of their own. They create themselves. Many times, I surprised myself using unsuspected materials, charged with a very particular energy and symbolism that seemed to be dictated by their own shapes.

The variables of place and time made them very contemporary. The experience of animating the dead or giving another life to waste or leftovers makes them rather universal and extemporaneous. In the end, the masks are as old as fire and edge. The quest for these faces is an eternal pursuit, like searching for one’s identity while trying to remain loyal to oneself. As they say, masks don't lie.

Collecting the residual and surplus material from other pieces is a great reality check exercise. What has been made is important, but even more so everything that was left out, squandered, undervalued or abandoned. It is like all of these are telling you that your plans and your will have consequences, like all that is left at the side of the road.

To make and follow my intuition was the rule, leaving my imagination to flow with no complaints nor demands of addressing in a certain way or to over conceptualize. I think in this case I was especially interested in listening to the objects and it was a real pleasure. The masks appeared one after the other, like a manifestation or an unexpected visit of people that arrive at a party. They appeared to me! I found someone I didn't know I was.

We played and had lots of fun dancing in the workshop. At the end of this process, I felt like the party had come to an end and that it became that sort of after hours situation, in which one can start cleaning up the house and make something for breakfast for the last guests in the kitchen again! Then, we make a toast and laugh at all those crazy people that came. And what is left is a feeling of wishing to make another scandal and celebrate life. 

– Damián Ortega