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Exhibition revolving around the theme of water opens at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Lucy + Jorge Orta, Cloud House I (installation view), 2012-2013. Photo © Jonty Wilde.

WAKEFIELD.- An exhibition of new and critically acclaimed work by Lucy + Jorge Orta opened at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on 20 July 2013. Located in YSP’s Longside Gallery and the open air, this important exhibition revolves around the theme of water, central to the Ortas’ practice, and demonstrates a shift toward floor-based sculptures, given context through works from the Clouds series, wall-hung Refuge Wear, and ceramic sculptures. The exhibition launches two new works: The Raft of Medusa and Spirits of the Huveaune – Ubelka, a life-size bronze for the open air from the Ortas’ ongoing Spirits series. The Ortas’ monumental work Cloud | Metéoros was recently unveiled at St Pancras International.

Inspired by their global research trips, the Ortas’ collaborative practice explores some of the 21st century’s most pressing issues regarding the environment and sustainable development, habitat and community, mobility, migration and climate change.

Lucy + Jorge Orta at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an opportunity to trace the development of the Ortas’ investigation of these issues and the way in which they imagine possible solutions. A major new installation, The Raft of Medusa, creates a central narrative for the exhibition, inspired by Géricault’s 1818/19 shipwreck painting Le Radeau de Meduse and Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s lakes. The work uses flotation oil drums and the humble plastic bottle as symbols for multiple ecological, economic and social meanings: readily available waste materials that are also a building block for a variety of spatial constructions including, sometimes, a home. The sculpture speaks of water and its relationship to human survival and destruction.

The Clouds sculptures, developed from the OrtaWater series, also feature in the exhibition and are the result of a research trip to Moqattam in Cairo where a whole community lives on a rubbish mountain. 70,000 people survive by sorting and recycling the city’s waste, assembling thousands of disused water bottles into strange organic structures. OrtaWater deals with the scarcity of water, issues surrounding its privatisation and corporate systems of control. Through Clouds the Ortas develop these complex lines of enquiry, imagining design prototypes for a sustainable future.

New work from the Ortas’ ongoing Spirits series is also unveiled for the first time, featuring a life size female figure cast in bronze and presented on a tall column outside Longside Gallery and overlooking the valley. Weaving a link between past and present, the Spirits series refers to the universal water cycle and its poetic representation through myth and legend, specifically in the valley of the Huveaune river in south-east France, where five earlier works reside. Spirits of the Huveaune – Ubelka at YSP is generously enabled by Pangolin Editions.

Further work includes items from Refuge Wear (1992-98) and Body Architecture (1994-98): portable architecture, lightweight and autonomous structures referencing issues of survival. In these works, tents become overcoats and backpacks become sleeping bags. These pieces illustrate the evolution of the artists’ continued concerns around affordable and sustainable shelter.

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