This show explores Ortega’s longstanding interest in visually dissecting the underlying sociohistorical narratives embedded in everyday materials. Including a mix of works created with sand, cement, brick, clay, and crystals, Porous Structures
excavates the materiality of permeable structures and objects, and how the cultural, political, and socio-economic implications of manufactured and natural constructions impact humankind in both a deeply personal and universal way.
For this exhibition, Ortega presents a series of distinct bodies of work that demonstrate the artist’s incisive approach to his mediums, as well as his uncanny ability to transcend ordinary materials into objects with complex narratives. A series of cement-brick sculptures depicting geological figures such as the reinterpreted topography of a mountain range, glaciers, volcanos and valleys, highlight the ways in which human intervention and environmental erosion impact the creation of both natural and manmade objects. His use of brick is particularly significant and recurs through his oeuvre; Ortega recontextualizes building materials to highlight how raw matter can be transformed into structures or systems for habitation. Modern sublease, a helix-shaped, staircase-like structure made with cement and clay, similarly connects to the artist’s interest in architecture and construction materials. As the viewer moves around the work, small crevices are revealed throughout the staircase, mimicking the architectural structure of a wasp’s nest or the geometry of modernist urban planning, transforming this undulating, wall-like structure into a place for community and collaboration. This notion of cohabitation is further portrayed through Ortega’s knitted works, which he calls nests, eliciting the notion of a compact homelike environment. The connectivity in the careful knotting and assembling of these delicate sculptures relates to the artist’s fascination with record-keeping and networks as sources of information and collaboration inherent throughout both objects and cultures.
In his monumental new site-specific work, Irregular emplacements, which consists of two 7-foot-tall mountainous structures made with sand and cement cubes, Ortega conflates the process of creating sculpture with an economics of positive and negative spaces that the viewer enters into. This installation aims to question what constitutes a sculpture, and highlights the significance of both the physical object on display as well as the negative space surrounding the sculpture. Ranging from the intimate to the monumental, Ortega’s works on view are both cultural artifacts and living objects in permanent transformation, existing as open structures that react and converse with the space inside and outside their physicality, housing and containing change over time.