Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: Virgil Ortiz's Velocity Series
By E. J. Guarino
Ceramic art and flight are, generally, not thought of together but Virgil Ortiz has managed to combine the two. Creating pottery, especially figures, is a slow and time consuming process, not one associated with speed. In the past Ortiz has dazzled and amazed us in exhibitions of his work provocatively titled “Tourniquet, “Vertigo,” “Distortion,” “Contortionista,” and “Saints and Sinners.” In “Velocity,” his latest show for the King Galleries of Scottsdale, he does not disappoint, fearlessly challenging his creativity and the limits of the ceramic medium.
The concept of “Velocity” is to project the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 into the future to 2180. Perhaps the most important event in Pueblo history, the 1680 revolt still resonates today among Native people and has inspired many Pueblo artists. In Virgil Ortiz’ futuristic vision of this seminal event, a character named the Translator is charged with the mission of communicating stories of the Pueblo Revolt, past and future, to the world. This mysterious figure is, in essence, Ortiz’ alter ego. It is the year 2180 and Native lands continue to be invaded by outsiders and the Po’Pay of the future summons the Blind Archers, a group of female warriors led by Tahu, and the Gliders, the 22nd century equivalent of the 1680 runners, led by Mopez to Tent Rocks, sacred formations near Cochiti Pueblo. As in the 17th century, a revolt is set in motion to free Pueblo people from their oppressors.
Po’Pay is such a legendary figure that often history and myth collide, making it difficult to separate the two. Virgil Ortiz has allowed the stories surrounding this heroic figure to inspire and infuse the work in his current exhibition for King Galleries: an installation, works in clay and a video.
THE SIGHT SPECIFIC INSTALLATION:
Virgil Ortiz painted a prayer on two walls of the King Galleries. It is written in a “secret language” (a combination of Cochiti and English) that the artist and four or five of his friends made up when they were in grade school together. The work, done in a stylized script freehand and intended to be ephemeral, will be painted over when the exhibit ends. The prayer is a translation of one from the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and is intended to have significance for all time periods.
Ortiz created eight figures, plus a jar and a plate that illustrate the theme of the exhibition: the 1680 Revolt seen as if it is taking place in the future. Each of the ceramic pieces is decorated with the artist’s iconic signature designs – swirls, sunbursts, triangles, and straight lines suggestive of tattoo art.
|Translator Sprint by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 19” x 10” x 10,” (2012).|
|Translator Plate by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 11” in diameter (2012)|
|Tahu, Leader of the Blind Archers by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 15”w x 19”h (2012).|
|Blind Archer 2180 #1 by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 7½”w x 14½”h (2012).|
|Blind Archer 2180 #2 by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 8½”w x 13½”h (2012).|
|Tent Rock Glider Set by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 15½”w x 16¼”h; individual Gliders 15” long, (2012).|
|Velocity Jar by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 17”w x 10”h (2012).|
|Castilian 2180 by Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, 7½”w x 18¼”h (2012).|
The Translator Unleashed was created by Ortiz (who also wrote the music) in conjunction with his Velocity Series and is reminiscent of other futuristic films such as Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard, Blade Runner by Ridley Scott and THX11 by George Lucas. With this video, Ortiz not only explores a new medium but also brings to life the ceramic figures he created as part of “Velocity” and reinforces uniquely Native American ideals: the right to control ones destiny, personal and cultural sovereignty and freedom – that became part of the American fabric. Click here to check out the video: The Translator Unleashed!
“Velocity” presents the Pueblo Revolt (sometimes referred to as the First American Revolution) from a Native perspective. This is not the first time Virgil Ortiz has done this. However, in his newest exhibit Ortiz not only, once again, leaves his unique personal mark on the Cochiti tradition ceramic figures known as monos, he continues to expand his artistic range by exploring other media. What is so exciting about the exhibit is the fact that the concept is too complex for just one medium so Ortiz uses three to convey his multifaceted themes. Never before has an artist projected an historical event into the future, forcing audiences to see its relevancy in a new light. Virgil Ortiz’ openness to all forms of artistic expression, his inventiveness and his willingness to embrace experimentation make him one of the country’s most exciting contemporary artists.
Installation photographs by Jeffrey VanDyke. Click here to read the full article.