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.”