Passing Through

Alexis Salas
Luis Felipe Ortega. Doble Exposición (expandida) / Double Exposure (Expanded)

That the folios that Luis Felipe Ortega carefully extracted from Peter Fischli & David Weiss’ book in order to make singular images have now been compiled to form Luis Felipe Ortega’s own book, the present publication, constitutes a satisfying circularity. There is an ecology of images at play through these blown up, blown out flowers in nearly psychedelic color saturations. Ortega’s source, Fischli & Weiss’ eponymous 1999 book, is but one of the Swiss duo’s incarnations of this flower project: It began with their creation of garden as artwork in Munster in 1997, became a video of still photographs broadcast on late night television, and then was shown as three slide shows of images exhibited with 100 photographs. From those photos, a selection was made and the book from which Ortega gleans was created.

These Fischli & Weiss photos are double exposures both in photographic terms, as they are superimpositions of one image upon another, as well as in visual terms, as they are close up studies of the familiar in ways that are unfamiliar.  In these images, humble fecund reproductive vessels oft associated with staid tropes of beauty act as mesmerizing visual decadence through a myriad of depictions. A panel of light emerges through a small landscapes, evoking inspirational imagery. Dreamy illumination blazes amid mushrooms in a techno gnome mushroom fable. Orange blooms against the turquoise of an endless blue sky in tones evocative of hyper-pigmented mass-produced Tropicalia flora that blazes bright. Dramatic browns and greys in scenes of dead tendrils and fallen fruit loosely evoke Duchamp’s last work and Cindy Sherman’s later work in color fashion photography. They are images that, especially when taken in conjunction with one another, understand flowers as so interwoven in the popular imaginary that they can play upon the internalized language and syntax that we collectively possess.

Furthering the notion of double exposure or double exhibition (a play on words inherent to the Spanish language title), Ortega exhibits both his work and Fischli & Weiss’ simultaneously. To work on the semi-unique pages of a published book rather than copies of it is both a severe alteration and an homage to the book object’s particular attributes. To intervene upon the original is to respect the confines of its size, the condition of its high gloss finish, and the challenges of making, or in this case, unmaking, a book. In the context of all of these artists’ work, books and their making is of tantamount importance: While Ortega’s work is characterized by his deep literary knowledge, authorship of texts, and co-directorship of publications; Fischli & Weiss’ practices reside in great part in their prolific production of artists’ books. But Ortega’s use of their book and invocation of their practices is far from bookish.

Ortega sources Fischli & Weiss’ photographs of fecundity in all their splendor and even decay and matches them with his own restrained but nonetheless equally exuberant visual interjection. On the pages of Fischli & Weiss’ book Ortega paints rectangles of pure color. He applies color blocks in a neat and ordered but seemingly haphazard manner. The rectangles bring to mind annotation systems and codes: some dense, others spare patches of rectangles, some clustered together, others dancing across the page, some concentrated in a segment of the image or an object within it, still others working their way along its axes. Theirs is a restrained, parallel narrative, or language if you will, that harmonizes with the first but elucidates itself less. The rectangles block the images yet offer a different way of seeing them. It is a playful game of both obscuring and revealing the source images. In doing so, the rectangles create a desire to read images, and thus a remembrance of the ways in which images can be read. This sort of return to possibility inherent in the notions of the book, of reading, of language, all circle back to the conviction in openness. It, and Ortega, envision a process of art making which passes through artistic mediums and even distinct artists, one in which individual works have collective relationships and meanings.