Streams

Gabriel Orozco: The Art of the Ready Made

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The first -- and at first, the only -- thing you see on walking into Gabriel Orozco's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art is an empty shoebox lying on the floor, a few inches from the wall and askew, as though someone had kicked it into the room by accident.

A piece of trash, left over from unpacking? Oh no, wait, there's a wall label: "Empty Shoe Box (1993)." Is he serious?

Orozco, who was born in Mexico in 1962, and has lived in Berlin, Paris, and New York, is hardly the first artist to challenge our idea of what art is. Duchamp had his famous urinal, after all, although a shoe box is, admittedly, more banal.

But, thankfully, Orozco is not all about austere conceptual gimmicks. Some of his works are primal, even sensual. In MoMA’s atrium, a giant reconfigured whale skeleton hangs in mid-air, like an exhibition at a natural history museum, except that it has been tattooed. Using thousands of mechanical pencils, Orozco and his assistants drew large concentric circles on the bones. Long before Damien Hirst and his diamonds, Orozco used a pencil to cover a human skull with a chess-board like grid.

Orozco’s “La DS” is a Citroën DS that he transformed by cutting it lengthwise, removing the center third, and welding it back together again, making the car absurdly skinny, with room for only one seat across, with the steering wheel in the middle. Even if you’ve seen pictures, the actual sight makes you laugh out loud.

The exhibition curator, Ann Temkin, says that Orozco uses everyday materials — he once made an entire sculpture out of laundry lint — in order to suggest that art is all around us, not something separate from everyday experience. For an earlier exhibition at MoMA, he gave oranges to the residents of apartment buildings across the street from the museum and asked them to put the oranges in their windows — creating art on the street outside the museum, where one least expected to find it. 

As Orozco's artwork exemplifies, one man's discarded rubbish can be another man's artistic treasure.

If you are a fan of Mexican art, stop by The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York. Orozco has spoken there about his works in the past. Take a closer look at the exhibit Asesinos, which is up until January 10, 2010.

It may not be made up of un-conventional items like Orozco's pieces, but the gargantuan outdoor installation piece in P.S 1 is worth a gander. Architectural firm MOS submitted the winning design, Afterparty, as part of this year's MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program competition, which called on emerging architects to create a structure that incorporated shade, seating, water and bar areas.

Over at the Guggenheim, fellow installation artist Rebecca Horn has two of her pieces in the permanent collection. Stop by and check them out, and you'll be able to partake in the museum's 50th anniversary festivities.

Photograph by Charles Watlington
Installation view of Mobile Matrix, 2006
Photograph by Charles Watlington
Installation view of Mobile Matrix, 2006
Gabriel Orozco
Mobile Matrix, 2006
Gabriel Orozco
Mobile Matrix, 2006
Gabriel Orozco
Mobile Matrix, 2006
Collection of the artist
Double Tail, 2002
Purchase and gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro and Donald B. Marron
Working Tables, 2000-2005, 2005
Purchase and gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro and Donald B. Marron
Working Tables, 2000-2005, 2005
Collection of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol, New York
Penske Work Project: Open Door, 1998
Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz Collection
Four Bicycles (There Is Always One Direction), 1994
Charpenel Collection, Guadalajara, Mexico
Eyes Under Elephant Foot, 2009
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Empty Shoe Box, 1993
Tate presented by George and Angie Loudon
Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe (detail), 1995
Tate presented by George and Angie Loudon
Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe (detail), 1995
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Atomist: Making Strides, 1996
Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift (by exchange) of Mr. and Mrs. James P. Magill
Black Kites, 1997
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
My Hands Are My Heart, 1991
Agnes Gund Collection, New York; Photography: Tom Powel
Untitled, 1993
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Agnes Gund and Lewis B. Cullman in honor of Chess in the Schools
Horses Running Endlessly, 1995
Collection of the artist
Yielding Stone, 1992
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Patricia and Morris Orden
Korean Air, 1997
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Photography: Tom Powel
Yogurt Caps (detail), 1994
Agnes Gund Collection, New York
Untitled, 1993
The Dakis Joannou Collection
Elevator, 1994
Fonds national d’art contemporain (Cnap), Ministère de la Culutre et de la Communication, Paris, Fnac
La DS, 1993
Fonds national d’art contemporain (Cnap), Ministère de la Culutre et de la Communication, Paris, Fnac
La DS, 1993
Purchase and gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro and Donald B. Marron; Photography: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Department of Imaging Services
Kytes Tree, 2005
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Island Within an Island, 1993

Tags:

More in:

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Sponsored

Feeds

Supported by