Merging traditions

Cauê Alves
Luis Felipe Ortega. Doble Exposición (expandida) / Double Exposure (Expanded)

After intensively studying the work of Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Luis Felipe Ortega intervened the Swiss duo’s posters during an artist residency in Brazil in 2012.  During that time, he also continued his research of Brazilian artists such as Hélio Oiticica. The Fischli & Weiss series, Flowers, was made forty years after the launching of the Manifesto Neoconcreto, published in 1959 in the Jornal do Brasil of Rio de Janeiro. Although the Swiss artist Max Bill, founder of the School of Form of Ulm, was key in the development of the avant-concretists in Brazil, Ortega's work moves away from this Swiss and Brazilian art juxtaposition.

The Fischli & Weiss pieces are generated with double exposures focused on the organic imagery of mushrooms, petals, and herbs. Ortega sets against this imagery a geometric grouping. This act is not only about the production of images derived from something that already exists, but in addition, it appropriates a work by inhabiting it from within. The procedure is a rearrangement of traditions, which are then pushed to a point that distances itself from any distinction between the original and the manipulated. Ortega’s insertion of small rectangular grids on Fischli & Weiss’ curvaceous, natural, and fluid works, produces a third layer. The posters, already filled with vibrant colors, now acquire a different meaning. The rectangles come to resemble expanded pixels that could integrate themselves into the structure of the poster images. The chromatic game proposed by the artist at once appeases and at once intensifies both the hues and the relationship between figure and background.  As it is known, all figures are perceived only in relation to the background, in the same way that sound is only heard because silence exist. But in Ortega's work everything occurs as if we could no longer distinguish what is background and what is foreground. Just as in the explorations of the concretists in Brazil, here we find a process of figure-ground reversal. The initial production of Brazilian artists and groups like Ruptura and Frente, who  launched the foundation of Concrete Art in Brazil, is filled with exercises that investigate the relationship between color, structure, and background. But this investigation, especially in the work of Oiticica, goes beyond traditional painting, bound by the canvas, and jumps into three-dimensional space. Ortega's process is exactly the opposite. This is the artist’s first venture into the field of painting after a long track record of working in three-dimensional space. When he intervenes Fischli & Weiss’ images, Ortega enters in dialogue with the concretist tradition in Brazil as he dissects space with vertical, horizontal, and color planes. Ortega departs from an understanding of space as an asset—a rational category that is objective and static. In this regard, time infiltrates space and causes movements throughout the composition. The structure of the images is broken by the asymmetric distribution of the rectangles. In doing so, the final work posses a musicality, with rhythms that alter in every poster. It is as if work’s structure began to dance, thus acquiring a temporal dimension. Configured as an active element (and virtual in terms of duration), time is not conceived as a mechanical element.  This sort of temporality is about an objective and measurable time, understood numerically by adding relations, rather than as time lived. Thus, the years that separate Oiticica, Fischli and Weiss, and Ortega’s work do not pose any difficulties. It is as if the artist reencountered a certain harmony in relation to his references. The time of their pieces cannot be measured internally, it is immeasurable, it is constantly passing. In the pieces, forms and color-saturated structures merge organically. If the double exposure of Fischli & Weiss already presented a desire to interweave different images, Luis Felipe Ortega’s operation certainly exceeds any duality and discovers, through his references, a primary and indivisible unit.