The Mattatoio hosts the first individual exhibition in Italy by Luis Felipe Ortega (Mexico City, 1966), who represented Mexico, along with Tania Candiani, at the 56th Biennale di Venezia.
Through a selection of artworks—namely video, photograph, installation, and drawings—the exhibition features the complexity of the visual research undertaken by the author as a main actor in the generation of artists that emerged in Mexico in the early nineties and that made multimediality the cornerstone of their own production.
The artworks selected for this occasion display the crucial points in the articulation of Ortega’s itinerary, which is traversed—as if by a subterraneous nourishment—by references to art history, philosophy, literature, and poetry.
In entering the exhibition space, one finds two pieces of the Horizons series (2013-2017) that introduce the central theme of the gaze, the point of view, the “exercise of observation” that also underlies the photographic series Looking through Something that Appears to be Oneself (2001-2014), and that finds its subsequent complement in the video Altamura (2016), located at the end of the walkthrough.
These pieces require attentive, prolonged observation. In Horizons, the pencil configures diverse tonalities of a real space and of a mental space. In Altamura, the landscape itself is a place of thought, where the images of the video—accompanied by the sound of the voices of poets, writers, and philosophers—sweep slowly, almost like stills, and bear the traits of time fragments. Looking through Something that Appears to be Oneself is made up of 88 small prints of 5 x 7 cm each that invite the visitor to reflect (her or himself) on those minimal fragments of reality.
For Ortega–—who has a philosophical and literary background—writing plays an important role. Consequently, the titles he chooses for his works are themselves evocative or narrative.
The 43 modules that compose Long Night in the Present (2016) are dedicated to the 43 students from Ayotzinapa kidnapped and then killed in Mexico on September 26th, 2014. In this instance we also attest to a silent narration, since for Ortega—who shared with his early nineties generation the drive to participate in the democratic process of their country by reclaiming public space and through collective work—every piece of art is intrinsically political.
It is in his poetic world, amid the resonating voices of beloved poets, writers, and philosophers, where Double Exposure (Expanded) (2012-2017) takes form by revisiting Flowers, the artist’s book by Fischli & Weiss, and Remake, filmed in 1994 alongside Daniel Guzmán. One might say this is a reenactment ahead of its time of performances by Bruce Nauman, Terry Fox, or Paul McCarthy.
Health Report (1991) dates from the early years of his career and records two actions: the first one in a domestic space and the other one in the street. Recalling Samuel Beckett, this work encourages a reflection on human condition, interpersonal relations, and the vulnerability of being.
At the center of the exhibition, behind the pillars, rises the installation Landscape and Geometry III (for P.P.P.) (2018): a landscape, again, but this time purely mental and evocative, unlike Altamura. Halfway between emptiness and fullness, between the lightness of threads and the heaviness of stones, the artist draws a place inspired in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s article “‘Il vuoto del potere’ ovvero ‘l’articolo delle luciole’”, published in the Corriere della Sera on February 1st, 1975. In his text, the Italian writer condemned the disappearance of fireflies—as the result of the poisoning of air and water—and read in it a metaphor of the transformation of Italy, of the disappearance of the farming and preindustrial civilization caused by the homogenization which in turn is produced by industrialization and by the power of consumerism. More topical than ever in a time of globalization, Pasolini’s thought is transformed into a poetic piece—as Ortega would say: “the artist creates a space with a particular order, sometimes a disorder, a different kind of order that eludes normality.”