Fernando Ortega

Chris Sharp

January 29, 2013
kurimanzutto, Mexico City
January 22–February 16, 2013

At the heart of this exhibition lurks a singularly misanthropic humanism. Never have I felt so simultaneously wanted and unwelcome, so integral and superfluous to a grouping of artworks. So delicate and poised are these pieces, and, in some cases, so potentially lethal, that the comparatively graceless human figure seems offensive here, a volume somehow too inexact to sustain such severe precision. And yet the nine works that comprise this show are not so defenseless as that. Despite their materially slight and patently conceptual character, they wield a presence that is categorically sculptural, if only by the sheer tension they potently generate.

Take, for instance, the four-part Harmonic Variations (2013). This supremely fragile installation continues the artist’s ongoing preoccupation with musical instruments—instruments, that is, which are more often than not, paralyzed by his interventions. It consists of four different variations of harmonicas wedged between sheets of glass, placed no less precariously on ledges, which are held in place by nothing more than gravity. Indeed the subtlety with which Richard Serra becomes a kind of etherealized spiritual father here speaks to how sculptural this work is. That triggersome (to coin a neologism) sensation carries on with more open humor in a series titled “Second Chance” (2013) on the other side of the gallery. These consist of bottles of champagne, placed on plinths, and partially opened (foil and wire removed, not uncorked) with a cricket pierced by a needle and pinned to the cork, like the impish, entomological antics of a sadistic lush. One wrong step or clumsy clash and the viewer is liable to jettison the lifeless insect into a brief, if lyrical, illusion of life.

A much more lethal note is sounded by two nearby works. Adagio Sostenuto (2013) features an acoustic guitar located in the middle of a broad, stage-like plinth. It is wired to an electricity box, which, rather than humming, clicks like a metronome, and purportedly produces enough juice to introduce anyone hapless enough to grab it to the same fate as the stymied insect. It would be an exaggeration to describe K-5 Hidden Peak (2013) as lethal, but potential for corporal damage is there. This three-part installation consists of a four-and-a-half meter-high ladder poised directly underneath a musical triangle, which hangs from the rafters of the cavernous, Chelsea-sized gallery. The tiny aluminum baton, with which to conceivably play the triangle, hangs from a nail on a nearby wall. Thus, one could grab the baton and limber up the ladder to play the instrument if only the cross braces of the utilitarian object were still in place and not ready to produce a scenario worthy of Buster Keaton. The push-and-pull that literally courses through the show comes to something of a gentle stop in Vacancy (2013). Perhaps the most delicate piece in the show, this work consists of an iconic rabbit-ear TV antenna placed on a plinth, in which a seemingly trained spider has woven a web, symmetrically filling the entire space of the spread antennae. To call it the “showstopper” seems a bit redundant, but nevertheless, its pointless simplicity is stunning.

When all is said and done, this eminently elegant exhibition feels essentially irreproachable. If I could reproach anything, it would be my suspicion that there is nothing I could say about it that it doesn’t already know—so precise, so self-aware does this show feel. And yet, I don’t know that I am even really allowed this reproach, as so in keeping it is with the analytical lucidity of the work that it, like the many accidents engineered to potentially take place here, will have already been foreseen by the artist.

Sculpture, Music, Installation
Conceptual & Post-Conceptual Art

Chris Sharp is a writer and curator who lives between Mexico City and Los Angeles. He is the cofounder of Lulu, Mexico City, LA MAISON DE RENDEZ-VOUS, Brussels, and Feuilleton, Los Angeles.

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January 29, 2013

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