8/10/2019 Gabriel Orozco 2
Mobile Matrix,2009. Sculpture withthe skeleton of a greywhale and graphite.Variabledimensions.
At the MoMAThe exhibition, consisting of over a 1 works, presented a panorama of artistic versatilityby an individual who could never be pinneddown to any one medium to begin with.
RAUL ZAMUDIO TAYLOR
a b r i e l Orozco's ascendancy in
contemporary art is often situatedwithin the backdrop of Mexicanart's development at the close of thetwentieth century. One should seethis parallel with trepidation, how-ever, for there resides a problematicin a historiography that pinpointshim as singularly responsible for theartistic paradigm shift in his nativecountry in the 1990s. This perceptionis formed by his emergence outsideof Mexico with his canonical showat New York's Museum of ModernArt in 1993. Those in New York com-mitted to advanced art as well as aninterest in Mexican contemporary artwere taken by surprise by Orozco'sostensible simple artistic gestures richwith visual poetics and conceptualverve. This was especially poignantwhen his debut exhibition came thesame year of the pivotal MoMA showLatin American Artists of the Twentieth-Century. In seeing these two showsin juxtaposition, it was apparent thatOrozco was the superlative offspring
of a complicated pedigree manifest-
ing within and beyond the geo-cul-tural foci of that group exhibition.
One of Orozco's early works thatheralded a potentially different Mex-ican contemporary artistic practicewas Recuperated Nature 1990). Thesculpture consisted of a massive ballof rubber made from a truck innertube tire that incorporated myriadreferences that were simultaneouslycosmopolitan and regional, OldWorld and New World, Europeanand Mexican, modern and post-modern, conspicuously literal andelusively conceptual. Its complexpolyvalence derived in conflat-ing signifier and signified and ar-ticulated with the most simplest ofmeans. On the one hand, RecuperatedNature alluded to the Mesoamericanballgame and thus Mexico's pre-Hispanic past vis-A-vis its roundshape and materiality; yet at thesame time, it conceptually referredto the larger socioeconomic circuitsthe truck was used for be it local,national ot international. In short, it
was a w6fk that encompassed bothnarrative possibilities and much
more by way of its complicated lin-
eage to Minimalism, Conceptual Artand artists who worked in a similarmedium such as Robert Morris andEva Hesse, for example. But whileOrozco occasionally inscribed hiswork with a kind of Mexicaness itequally resisted reductive rubrics incultivating a protean, global artisticvocabulary. Orozco's internationalformal and conceptual sensibilitywas well known before the recentMoMA show, and this consensuswas cemented in the exhibition in re-vealing a corpus amalgamated frommany strands of thought; here, onecould see an artistic practice deeplyengaged in philosophy, history, an-thropology, art history, architecture,and design, to name just a few.
The exhibition, consisting of over a100 works, presented a panorama ofartistic versatility by an individualwho could never be pinned downto any one medium to begin with.While the show was installed on thetop floor, it was introduced on thesecond floor with two monumentalworks. Both seemed to be based onearlier ideas, which can be construed
as equivalent to a musical composi-
8/10/2019 Gabriel Orozco 2
tion and variations, albeit that thelatter are distinctly independent andautonomous. One was a room sizedinstallation stemming from the Atom
ists series as well as Orozco's interestin games. Titled Samurai Tree Invariants 2008), the installation consistedof hundreds of digital drawings cre-ated via the interaction between thecircle and four colors and based on aknight's move in chess known as thesamurai. This piece was buoyed bythe ostensibly Jurassic Mobile Matrix
2009), a sculpture of a life-size GrayWhale skeleton whose surface wascovered with graphite marks. Thiswork hung from the ceiling like aspecimen from a bizarre cabinet ofcuriosity, and merited comparisonsto a preceding work of a human skullcovered in graphite titled Black Kites 1995). An interesting paradox be-tween these two works one can onlyconjecture: although the mementomori aspect of Black Kites remains byway of cranium, Mobile Matrix had
the opposite effect; for its suspendedconfiguration created an overpower-ing presence of nature's evolution andtenacity for survival regardless that it
too, should have been a reminder ofdeath. It is a testament to Orozco'sartistic ability that he can undermineany presumptuousness towards hiswork's meaning and signification.These two large scale pieces were fol-lowed upstairs by the triangulation ofthe sublime Elevator 1994), the tenderand emotive My Hands are My Heart
Yogurt Caps, 1994. Detail. Fouryogurt lids. Each 3 8 nches in diameter 7,9 cm.).Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery.
Empty Shoe Box 1993. Show box.4 I s 13 x 8 12 in 12,4 x 33 x 21,6 cm.),Courtesy:MarianGoodman Gallery,
Elevator, 1994. Modifiedelevator cabin.8 x 8 x 60 in 243,8 x 243,8 x 152,4 cm.). Four BicyclesThere is A waysOne Direction), 1994. Bicycles.6,6 x 7,4 x 7,4 feetThe DakisJoannou Collection. 198,1 x 223,5 x 223,5 cm.). Carlosand Rosa de [a CruzCollection,
8/10/2019 Gabriel Orozco 2
PenskeWork Project: Open Door 1998. Fiber board and wood.24 x 6 2 5 x 23 in 61 x 193 x 58,4 cm.). Collection StevenJohnsonand Walter Sudol.
YieldingStone 1992. Plasticine. 14 1/2 x 151/2 x 16 in 36,8 x 39,4 x 40,6 cm.).
1991), and the cerebral and deadpanEmpty Shoebox 1993).
As the works respectively impliedthe artist's body, hands and feet, theywere an apt way to initiate internaldialogue within the exhibition. Elevator is an abandoned elevator thatOrozco had modified to fit his height,while the white Empty Shoebox withlid placed underneath it exposing itsempty interiority also dovetailed onspace, phenomenology, and absentpresence. Yet, in the latter work onecan see a kind of surrogate in minu-tiae of the so-called white cube, ametaphor for the exhibition space incleaving art from life, which is whatOrozco often meshes in his workand is possibly the unifying threadof his oeuvre. An inversion of EmptyShoebox that further poetically eluci-dates issues surrounding the socialproduction of space is the Yogurt
aps 1994). This work-made up ofyogurt lids directly placed on wallsand exhibited at New York's MarianGoodman Gallery in Orozco's firstone person show-was a conceptualmaneuver par excellence. Whereasthe Empty Shoebox drew attentionto negative space surrounding it tounderscore the viewer's non-neu-tral presence, Yogurt Caps was the lid placed over the gallery whereits expiration date underscored the
gallery's role as broker of art as com-modity object. The only caveat of thiswork in the MoMa show was the lackof giving it a room of its own. How-ever, what were given ample spacewere the well known reconfiguredCitron DS car titled La S 1993) andFour Bicycles There is Always OneDirection) 1994). The simplicity ofmodifying the well known Frenchautomobile to only fit one person,and the quartet of pretzel-shapedbicycles with its Duchampian un-dertones is nothing short of brilliant.The transformation of everydaymaterials as well as the quotidianworld through intervention or whatappears to be re-contextualization, isthe formal and conceptual epicenterof Orozco's artistic practice
Photographs, for example, can bethe documentation of an event trig-gered by the artist such as Breath
on Piano 1993), and Until You FindAnother Yellow Schwalbe (1995).Breath on Piano is self-evident by thework's title, while the latter entaileda yellow Schwalbe motorcycle thatOrozco bought in Berlin which herode around the city. During hisperegrinations he would find otheryellow Schwalbes and would thenphotograph his own next to them.Sculpture, too, can often serve tomaterialize time as is the case with
Yielding Stone 1992) or Penske WorkProject: Open Door 1998). Apart fromthe array of sculptures, photographs,works on paper, videos, paintingsand installations in the MoMA show,there were also Orozco's Notebooks.The Notebooks which span dates asearly as 1992 to as recent as last yearand are in separate volumes, areessential viewing for they are morethan the musings, studies and soforth of Orozco's actualized pieces,but offer a glimpse of the multivalentmachinations of the mind behind thiscomplex body of work and expres-sions of an historically importantartist.
RAUL Z MU IO
Is a New York based art historian, critic andcurator.
58 RT N xus
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Gabriel Orozco At the MoMA
Art Nexus 9 no76 Mr/My 2010 p. 56-8
Arte en Colombia S.A.
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