Materialista [Materialist] is the title of the never-before-shown installation created by Mexican artist Damián Ortega especially for the Galpão Fortes Vilaça. This eight-meter-long artwork resorts to fundamental characteristics of Ortega’s work: the appropriation of objects of daily life, deconstruction, and playful treatment of language.
Materialista is the word used in Mexico to designate a truck that transports construction materials. When one enters the Galpão, this is precisely what one sees: a truck hanging from steel cables from the gallery’s ceiling. However, what our mind immediately identifies as a truck is actually only the vehicle’s chromed parts and the voids between them. The radiator, the bumpers, the mud flaps, the mirrors – all of the chromed parts – are hung there as if there were in fact a motor, a driver’s cabin and seat. But there is only empty space between them. Our understanding of the pieces present takes place through the context in which they are included, since only a lone piece would be unidentifiable and its function imperceptible. The structure that is formed thus resembles a constellation.
The play on words between the artwork’s title and the object it is based on is an important element of the work. The “materialist” truck is identified with the distribution of concrete goods, used for construction, and is therefore inserted in a known or predictable logic of the weights and values of the objects brought from one place to another in plain sight of everyone. In opposition, the hollow structure of the artwork emphasizes its symbolic charge. This materialism is related not only with the power of matter and antimatter, but also with the logic of values in the art market, where the value attributed to the objects is not always visible.
The first time that Damián Ortega dismembered an automobile was in 2002. Unlike Materialista, his artwork Cosmic Thing presented a Volkswagen beetle – the icon of the promise of modernity – as in an “exploded view” technical diagram, with all its pieces held in space by steel wires attached to the ceiling. Cosmic Thing was shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Philadelphia, USA, and subsequently at the 50th Venice Biennale, in 2003.
Damián Ortega is one of the most internationally well-known artists of his generation. In 2008–2009 he held a large solo at Centre Pompidou, in Paris, where he showed his installation Champ de Vision. In 2006 he participated in the 27th Bienal de São Paulo; in 2007 he was nominated for the Preis Der Nationalgalerie fur Junge Kunst, in Germany; and in 2005 he was nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize.