Centre Pompidou Presents Gabriel Orozco Exhibition

This outstanding exhibition is Gabriel Orozco’s first at the Centre Pompidou, and the first opportunity to see his work in Paris since his exhibition “Clinton is Innocent” at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1998. Open through 3 January 2010.

Orozco, who lives in Paris for several months a year, has been closely involved in developing the project, helping to design, together with Centre Pompidou curator Christine Macel, an exhibition of more than 80 works that offers an overview of his career from the beginnings to today. It offers an opportunity to see drawings, photographs, paintings and sculptures from collections public and private in France and abroad, many of which have never been seen in this country before.

This exhibition at the Centre Pompidou follows shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Kunstmuseum, Basel; another will follow at Tate Modern, London. The Paris show is larger than the two preceding, in terms of both exhibition space and number of works exhibited.

Having begun to establish an international reputation in the early 1990s, Gabriel Orozco is now recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation. Constantly travelling, and without any fixed studio, Orozco rejects national or regional identifications, drawing his inspiration from the different places he has lived or stayed in. Born in Jalapa, Mexico, in 1962, he currently lives between Mexico, New York and Paris.

His open and constantly developing approach finds expression in works of widely varying scale in a great diversity of media, the artist showing equal ease, freedom and fluidity in photography, drawing, painting, sculpture and installation.

For this exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Orozco has come up with an original layout based on the idea of the studio. Doing without internal walls, labelling or commentary, the works are displayed in a simplicity that echoes the moment of their creation, before their appropriation by the museum and its apparatus.

Gabriel Orozco’s work is notable for the artist’s great interest in elements of the urban landscape and of the human body. Incidents from the world of the familiar and everyday are central to his work, based on a poetics of chance and paradox. The boundary between the art object and the everyday environment is deliberately dissolved, art and reality being combined together. Movement, expansion, circularity, and the conjunction of the organic and the geometrical have been constant themes for more than twenty years.

Horses Running Endlessly is a chessboard enlarged and transformed, bringing together the characteristic themes of game, infinity and circularity. Black Kites, a human skull covered by a grid drawn in graphite, testifies to the importance of reflection in Orozco’s work. La DS is a Citroën DS that the artist cut in three, longitudinally, removing the central section and the engine before joining the two outer parts. Similarly, in Elevator, he cut an elevator cabin to the shape of his own body. In these works Orozco effects a reduction of habitual everyday space, which finds itself confined by its function. For Four Bicycles (There is Always One Direction) the artist took four bicycles, assembling the frames as a single unit. These three sculptures, all evoking movement despite their immobility, are based on a strategy of “extraction and reconfiguration” frequently resorted to by the artist: he does not rob the object of its original function, nor turn it into something else, but rather offers a reinterpretation.

The exhibition includes many works dealing with the body. My Hands Are My Heart is a small sculpture made by the artist’s pressing a ball of clay between his palms to form an object in the shape of a heart that bears the impress of his body. The sculpture is placed opposite a photographic diptych in which one sees the hands closed around the clay and opened to show the heart, revealing the way the work was made. There are other works of terracotta moulded by hands and fingers, bearing the traces of the encounter between the artist’s body and the material (Torso, Three arms, Four and Two Fingers…), as well as a number of works on paper in which the hand figures as motif or tool or both: palm prints on paper, outlines of hands filled with flourishes. First Was The Spitting is a series of four drawings produced by spraying toothpaste spit onto squared paper and then surrounding the marks so made by little black circles drawn in ink and pencil. The artist’s interests in the organic, in circular form, expansion and the cosmos here find epigrammatic expression.

The photographs taken in the early 1990s are the product of Orozco’s walks through the city, either simple snapshots of things encountered, or records of the artist’s intervention in manipulating found objects to form poetic or humorous assemblages.

Another medium in which Orozco works is painting. The series Samurai Tree, executed in tempera (red, blue and white) and gold leaf on wood, are the fruit of the artist’s investigation of the circular form and rotary movement that have been a concern from the very beginning. They follow on from the coloured circles drawn on airline tickets and banknotes in 1995 and the later images of sportsmen in the Atomist series, also exhibited here. For the artist, these paintings are diagrammatic representations of a structure in constant development.

Spherical forms, too, are scattered through the exhibition: Recaptured Nature is a giant rubber balloon made from truck-tire inner tubes found at a flea market: a memory of its old role is inscribed on the scuffed surface of the material. Orozco often works with objects or materials found in the street. There are also balls of plasticine, among them Yielding Stone, of the same weight as the artist, rolled through the streets until it acquired a patina of debris across the whole surface.

Other small sculptures evoke exchange, circulation, movement: Shoes is a pair of shoes with their soles glued together; the Two Socks are stuffed with papier mâché; Seed’s light, organic form of steel mesh holds polystyrene balls; and Soccer Ball 7 is an incised football.

The exhibition also offers an opportunity to see recent sculptures made from vegetal elements collected in the Mexican desert: Drops on Trunk is a piece of mango trunk on which the artist has drawn a system of interlaced circular forms, while Eyes under Elephant Foot is a section of beaucarnea trunk with glass eyes embedded in the cross section. Two sculptures hanging from the ceiling seem to float in space, creating rhythms in different dimensions: Spume Stream, an organic form in polyurethane foam, and Toilet Ventilator, a revolving ceiling fan with streamers of toilet paper. The artist also presents his Working Tables, tables bearing an accumulation of materials, found objects and maquettes reflecting ten years’ sculptural experiment that offer an unprecedented insight into the artist’s work process while also revealing connections between different projects.

Image: Gabriel Orozco, “La DS”, 1993 © ADAGP, 2010


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