Damián Ortega, "Harvest", 2013

A breathtaking installation by Mexican-born artist Damián Ortega, now on view at the Gladstone Gallery in New York, requires a triple take.

Upon entering, 25 twisted and suspended forms immediately inspire wonder and curiosity, both in how they float (near invisible wire hung from impressively high ceilings) and what, if anything, the forms represent. Not knowing is the first great experience of this work and I encourage you to thumb through the photos below before reading another word.

The Alphabet of Damián Ortega in news events art  Category

Damián Ortega, “Harvest”, 2013

What takes a surprising amount of time to notice is the floor, on which 25 letters of the alphabet are “written” in shadow. It is unbelievable that such abstract three-dimensional shapes translate so precisely into two-dimensional letters, and how I personally didn’t even notice for the first 5 minutes. Additionally, there are different degrees of “blur” in the shadows caused by the various distances from the floor that heighten this effect of handwriting, as if the ink faded with the speed of a massive pen. As a total experience, it’s a question of just how arbitrary AND exact our written language can be.

The Alphabet of Damián Ortega in news events art  Category

Damián Ortega, “Harvest”, 2013

The Alphabet of Damián Ortega in news events art  Category

Damián Ortega, “Harvest”, 2013

The Alphabet of Damián Ortega in news events art  Category

Damián Ortega, “Three Letters”, 2013

Exiting the shadowy space, three “tools” on a pedestal (ignored on my way in) prompt a third viewing. The implication is that every piece in the gallery was bent by these tools or tools like them (a friend visiting from Mexico informed me that they are the shapes of common construction tools every worker carries). Suddenly the dents and scratches on the large sculptures demand attention. No longer is the author a mythical giant, but a real person(s) accomplishing amazing feats of incredible precision.

What: Damián Ortega: Harvest
Where: Gladstone Gallery, 530 West 21st St, New York, NY
When: September 13, 2013 – October 26, 2013 (Tue-Sat 10-6)

All Images: Copyright Damián Ortega, photographed by David Regen, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.