Susanna Temkin on Gloria Ortiz-Hernández

Gloria Ortiz-Hernández, Over and Over #5, 2010, tape, charcoal, graphite and colored pencil on Fabriano paper, 22 x 22 inches (55.9 x 55.9 cm). © Gloria Ortiz-Hernández / Photo: Ellen McDermott
Gloria Ortiz-Hernández, Over and Over #5, 2010, tape, charcoal, graphite and colored pencil on Fabriano paper, 22 x 22 inches (55.9 x 55.9 cm). © Gloria Ortiz-Hernández / Photo: Ellen McDermott

A single action repeated over and over: such is the basis of Gloria Ortiz-Hernández’s aptly titled series, “Over and Over.” As in many of her previous works, these drawings adopt the format of a square within a square, in which the central worked image is balanced by the unworked surface of its paper support. Yet while Ortiz-Hernández’s earlier drawings were shaped by her controlled application of graphite and charcoal, the ”Over and Over” series marks the artist’s shift to tape as primary material. Ortiz-Hernández begins each drawing by adhering a single strip of tape within the boundaries of a demarcated central square. Characteristic of her working method, which depends upon a guiding gesture, this single strip provides the artist with a foundation for the drawing. Performing this initial action over and over, Ortiz-Hernández applies additional strips of freely cut lengths of tape, piece by individual piece, finishing each drawing with a thin coat of charcoal pigment and colored pencil.

In this series, each strip of tape becomes a line that forms the drawing’s overall structure. Yet while all of the drawings in the “Over and Over” series conform to the same process of production, every piece exhibits a unique result. This variability derives from Ortiz-Hernández’s practice of working with a combination of intuition and control, such that the repetitive process of applying tape strips is neither automatic nor conditioned by what was previously done. As one piece of tape follows another, Ortiz-Hernández strives to preserve the individual nature of each strip, often moving from one area of the paper to another in the process of creating each piece. Such handling causes the surprising diagonals, shifts in direction, and irregular spacing between lines in the drawings of this series.

In the case of Over and Over #5 (2010), areas of horizontally oriented pieces of tape disrupt the vertical strips that dominate the structure of the work. Three of these areas – two located along the square’s bottom axis and the third hovering in its top right corner – expand inward to meet along the length of two additional sets of horizontal lines which extend across the square’s central axis. Together, these areas appear like bound or reinforced apertures in the drawing’s structure, which, because of the charcoal’s dark organic tones, bring to mind thatching or basketry. In her own discussion of Over and Over #5, Ortiz-Hernández describes these horizontal lines as “accents.” Further alluding to language is Ortiz-Hernández’s explanation that the intent of her drawings is to give “voice” to her materials. If this is the case, what do the materials say and how can they be understood?

Interestingly, an answer can perhaps be found by considering Over and Over #5 as a text, a concept that in fact reconciles the seemingly disparate references of thatch-work and language. Returning to the original Latin, the word “text” originally derived from the past participle of texere, meaning to weave or to fabricate.1 Placing emphasis on the act of making, such linguistic roots suggest that the process and structure of Over and Over #5 is essential to reading the work as a form of text. Yet although the methods responsible for the creation of Ortiz-Hernández’s drawings are known, the precise point at which the artist initiated, continued, or finished the piece cannot be determined due to the accumulation of the tape strips. With each piece of tape placed over and over onto the page without any established beginning or end, Over and Over #5 must therefore be approached as a non-narrative text. Indeed, viewers of the drawing must be converted into readers in order to notice how the delicate fold of a strip of tape refuses to lay flat; how shadows and contours are formed by soft tonal highlights; how wisps of charcoal powder escape from the boundaries of the square. The materials’ subtleties are only revealed when Over and Over #5 is closely read, examined, analyzed, over and over.

1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., s.v. “Text.”

Gloria Ortiz-Hernández Biography

Gloria Ortiz-Hernández (b. 1943, Cali, Colombia) is an artist whose work has been shown in numerous museum exhibitions, most recently at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley, Massachusetts (2004); The University Galleries at Texas State University, San Marcos (2009); and the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York (2011). Recent group and solo exhibitions were held at Galería Casas Riegner, Bogotá, Colombia (2012); Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York (2012); and artBO International Art Fair, Bogotá, Colombia (2012). Her work may be found in a variety of museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; the Seattle Art Museum, Washington; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others. Ortiz-Hernández works in Bogotá and New York.
Susanna Temkin Biography
Susanna V. Temkin (b. 1985, Miami, FL) is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where her research focuses on modern art in the Americas. Temkin is currently working on her doctoral dissertation about the artist Marcelo Pogolotti, a key figure from the first generation of modern artists in Cuba and a participant in the international avant-garde. In addition to her academic work, Temkin is the Research and Archive Specialist at Cecilia de Torres, Ltd., New York, where she is helping to produce the catalogue raisonné of Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García. Prior to these experiences, Temkin worked in various positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; El Museo del Barrio, New York; and The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida.