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Damian Ortega - Traces of Gravity, White Cube Mason's Yard

  • I must remember not to read the white sheet of doom when I go to exhibitions. It's too easy to wander in, grab the sheet and read a short description about everything you will see with an explanation about how it reveals certain things about Cocaine and the drug trade in Mexico - you find yourself standing in the exhibition room peering intently at the tiny text on the white sheet of doom (WSOD) and then vaguely checking to see if the exhibits themselves are indeed a pile of tires with a line down the middle - they were.

    The best bit was something I didn't read about in the aforementioned WSOD as I couldn't quite bear to read all the way to the end. It was four or five cameras that the artist had moulded in concrete, there was a historical progression from a box brownie to an iPhone 4s. For some reason there was something mystical and beautiful about these sculptures. The Brodie's Notes WSOD says it's to do with "a nod to the ability of the camera to freeze time and space" - but this is a trite and belittling reading for something that looked so beautiful. I think the real tenor of the piece comes from the fact that these cameras in concrete had a weird look as if they were built of dust covered plastic - and this managed to take them out of their context and you suddenly saw how we value these little intricate boxes that take images of our world. All the cameras are beuatifully made and are actually extraordinary alien items that we revere for their magic.
    The rest of the show may have enagaged me more if the now over mentioned WSOD hadn't taken away my chance to be surprised. There is a bike with salt under it and a play on the shadows it makes and a submarine that reminds me of Anselm Kiefer hanging from a ceiling with salt pouring out of it. Maybe there is something in there about these pieces having a strong cut through, so that you can hear the Mexican drug trade story behind them, but it's just too much advertsing and too much journalisism to get me enganed - but then I was a journalist and I have a problem with art that acts as spoon fedding journalism. It all stop being mystical - unlike the strangely affecting camera casts.
    Review by Robert Dunt, Practiscing Artist and Founder and CEO of
    Damian Ortega - Traces of Gravity runs at White Cube Mason's Yard until 8 September.