New York City’s MoMA devotes a midcareer retrospective to the most popular contemporary artist from Mexico.
The centerpiece of the show is 'Mobile Matrix' of 2006: The huge life-size skeleton of a stranded whale occupies the air space of the MoMA atrium.
The whale sculpture usually is located at the Biblioteca Vasconcelos library in Mexico City. It results from a 'creativity in residence' cooperation of Gabriel Orozco and Marco Barrera Bassols, the director of the Mexican Museum of Natural History. Whales are an endangered species, obviously books too? By special permission it now was brought to NYC and will tour on with the show to Basel, Paris and London.
It is quite impressive and will be the motif of many tourist photographs, yet I don’t think it is one of the best works by Gabriel Orozco.
Mr. Orozco’s International success started in 1993 with his first modest exhibition here at the MoMA. Times were similar then: A stock exchange crisis caused an end to the art market boom of the 1980s. This boom art was a lot about quick and colorful painting in large formats ('new' or 'wilde painting' from cities like New York or Cologne, e.g. Rainer Fetting or Julian Schnabel).
Then there was Gabriel Orozco from Mexico:At that time he was only 32 years old and living in the New York University dorm of his girlfriend. Instead of large canvasses he did conceptual works made of found objects from non-fine-art materials.
My favorite piece is ‚My Hands are my Heat’ of 1991. He squeezed a ball of industrial clay between his two hands, forming a heart-shaped object that reveals the process of its making. I like the poetry and the simplicity of this conceptual work.
Also in 1993, he took part in the Venice Biennial: ‚Empty Shoe Box’ was just a simple shoe box left on the floor of the gallery space. Many visitors just passed by without noticing or even kicked it out of their way – until they looked for the white label on the wall.
I like it, because you can read it in so many ways: A critique on the gallery / museum system, on the perception of artist from Latin America, on the blue-chip-artist orientation, on the white cube,
Among the 80 works, there is also his signature sculpture ‚La DS’: Gabriel Orozco bought a French car, the Citroën DS. In the 1960s the DS model stood for modern French design and the believe in the future driven by technology. Even the French philosopher Roland Barthes referred to it in his 1957 essay 'Mythologies'. DS is also a play of words in French: If you pronounce it properly you can say 'Deèsse' (goddess).
Then he had it cut lengthwise into three pieces, got rid of the middle part, and had the two side parts manufactured together. It looks like a perfect futuristic Fantômas car, yet only for one person.
I like the way he questions the idea behind an object by just heightening its defining characteristics.
In an interview at the MoMA he said, 'I was never an idealist. I was not against the market. I was trying to understand the market. I was not against the object. I was trying to understand why we make objects. I was not even against painting itself when I stopped doing it. I was against the way that people were painting because I thought it was very boring.'
I don’t know if it is my expectation in the (early) art by Gabriel Orozco, or simply the art itself: I don’t like his late paintings.
Maybe he is himself bored by his non-fine-art-material approach and now uses gold leaf and tempera paint – I don’t know. I just think he was a lot more exciting in his early work.
However, as you could already notice at Art Basel Miami Beach, there was plenty of collector’s interest in these paintings too.
Trough March 1, 2010