Gar­briel Orozco

Celia Lyt­tel­ton meets

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS - The New Per­ma­nent Gar­den for the South Lon­don Gallery by Gabriel Orozco. www.southlon­don­

Gabriel Orozco's sculp­tures, pho­to­graphs, and paint­ings are largely ded­i­cated to the ephemeral in ev­ery­day ob­jects. With Orozco, any­thing can trans­form into art: yo­ghurt con­tain­ers, cars, even an en­tire whale skele­ton. Orozco has re-con­ceived boomerangs, soccer balls, ping-pong ta­bles, bi­cy­cles, and has care­fully col­lected and or­ga­nized desert sam­ples, rub­bish, and things so seem­ingly dis­parate as to make him an avatar of what­ever it is you want to call con­tem­po­rary art.

The son of a com­mu­nist mu­ral­ist, Orozco grew up sur­rounded by artists.

“It was a very nice child­hood. I was born in ’62, so it was full of left-wing peo­ple, artists; my fa­ther was a young painter teach­ing at the univer­sity in Ver­acruz. I was sur­rounded by pol­i­tics, the ’68 stu­dent move­ment, there as much as in France. My child­hood en­vi­ron­ment was very artis­tic, full of pho­tog­ra­phers, artists, singers, mu­sic. My schools were like Montes­sori, so it was a very pro­gres­sive ed­u­ca­tion. My fa­ther was im­por­tant, but not fa­mous. My fa­ther painted mu­rals and was po­lit­i­cally ac­tive in the Com­mu­nist party.”

Gabriel trained in aca­demic paint­ing at the Es­cuela Na­cional de Artes Plás­ti­cas in Mex­ico City, where he learned, as he puts it, “fresco, tem­pera, oil, pas­tel, etch­ing, ev­ery­thing.” When help­ing his fa­ther paint mu­rals “mostly to earn money to

buy a car,” he de­cided against the life of a painter.

In­stead, he trav­elled the world, car­ry­ing lit­tle more than a tooth­brush, a note­book and an au­to­matic Nikon cam­era. He started pro­duc­ing work that re­flected his per­pet­ual mi­gra­tion, wan­der­ing from one medium to another. He used for­eign ban­knotes and air­line ticket stubs as sur­faces for draw­ings and paint­ings. He made sculp­tures out of cars and bi­cy­cles, sug­gest­ing cease­less mo­tion. He even ex­hib­ited his own suit­case. “The idea of a work­shop has never ap­pealed to me,’

he con­tin­ues. 'For me, it’s im­por­tant to move, and to leave my work ex­posed to things I don’t know. For each project I do some­thing dif­fer­ent. I make things – pro­vi­sional things – and the only thing that is con­sis­tent is that I travel on my

own and do things on my own.” Orozco’s no­madic way of liv­ing in­formed his work around this time, and he took much in­spi­ra­tion from ex­plor­ing the streets like a flâneur, while also trav­el­ling to re­mote parts of the world like Mali and In­dia. Now Orozco is no longer the foot­loose wan­derer, tooth­brush, note­book and cam­era in hand, who found poetry in pud­dles and dig­nity in de­bris.

Orozco is a master of the un­der­state­ment and there is noth­ing re­motely showy about his work. Orozco can be seen as the op­po­site of Jeff Koons. He dis­likes loud sculp­tures that make com­mon things gi­gan­tic. Rather he rev­els in the com­mon place and ob­ject, and im­bues them with an en­tirely new mean­ing and per­spec­tive: an empty shoe box, a row of ex­er­cise books with one potato placed on top of them or a box of wa­ter­mel­ons topped with cans of cat food; cat’s eyes ap­pear to peep over the fruit, are pre­sented not as art but, in place of art, thereby car­ry­ing the ba­ton for Mar­cel Duchamp.

In his first show with Mar­ian Good­man in New York in 1994, Orozco placed four yo­gurt caps onto each op­pos­ing wall in the empty north­ern room of the gallery. Orozco has said a num­ber of times that he aims to “dis­ap­point the viewer.” On the other hand peo­ple can­not but mar­vel at his au­dac­ity, and are not dis­ap­pointed.

At his ret­ro­spec­tive at the Tate Mod­ern he showed Shoe Box 1993, a plain, white box, that vis­i­tors of­ten picked up think­ing it was rub­bish. It was ex­hib­ited along­side a se­lec­tion of tyres; a lift ripped from a Chicago tower block; a knot of four en­twined bi­cy­cles; a ball of melted in­ner­tubes; and a vin­tage Citroën that Orozco has re­duced to half its orig­i­nal width.

Over the years, he has used dif­fer­ent teams of peo­ple and a wide range of ma­te­ri­als – cut­ting up and re-as­sem­bling a Citroën DS, is one of his sem­i­nal works. A 1960 Citroën DS, an icon of French in­dus­trial chic, he tri­sected length­wise and re­assem­bled with the mid­dle third left out; pho­to­graphs of ephemeral in­ter­ven­tions in the world (rip­ples from peb­bles thrown onto a flooded flat roof, a fog of breath on the pol­ished top of a pi­ano and im­pro­visatory sculp­tures in ma­te­ri­als (wood, clay, plas­ter, polyurethane foam, con­crete, sea shells, tree roots, moss) that feel newly dis­cov­ered. In Orozco's work the quo­tid­ian be­comes some­thing rather mag­i­cal and mys­te­ri­ous.

He once fash­ioned his own weight in Plas­ticine into a giant, greasy, lop­sided sphere, and rolled it down Broad­way in New York be­fore plac­ing it in­side a nearby mu­seum, so that the mal­leable ma­te­rial be­came en­crusted with dust and de­bris, and marked with the im­pres­sions of ev­ery­thing that it had touched. Yield­ing

Stone is a mad kind of self por­trait. “I come from a coun­try where a lot of art is la­belled sur­re­al­ist. I grew up with it and I hate that kind of dream­like, eva­sive, easy, po­etic, sex­ual, cheesy sur­re­al­ist prac­tice,”

he de­clares. “I try to be a re­al­ist,” he adds. “There is hu­mour in my work but I'm not play­ing cyn­i­cal games or flirt­ing with the art world or en­gag­ing with the fri­vol­ity of the mar­ket.”

Orozco is a canny artist who ef­fec­tively bridges the gap be­tween phys­i­cal­ity and im­ma­te­ri­al­ity, the mi­cro and the macro, the in­dus­trial ready-made and ev­ery­day de­tri­tus. Few con­tem­po­rary artists have mined the space be­tween the or­di­nary and the strange bet­ter than Orozco does.

Orozco's stu­dio is the world, he is a boule­vardier, he trawls the streets lis­ten­ing and look­ing. His work is mul­ti­far­i­ous, go­ing off in all di­rec­tions and tan­gents, en­tirely un­pre­dictable and al­ways ex­pertly orig­i­nal. There is no Orozco style, but he does have a pen­chant for found, drawn, and sculpted cir­cles and spheres. His

Samu­rai Tree Paint­ings, lus­trous white and gold, are based on ge­o­met­ri­cal in­ter­re­lated cir­cles and spheres, like fa­bled swords­men twirling steel.

Novem­ber 2016 saw the un­veil­ing of a gar­den by Orozco which is un­ex­pected, a space that is con­trived, man made, tam­ing na­ture: the gar­den is em­bed­ded in our civ­i­liza­tion, per­ma­nent and yet al­ways chang­ing and need­ing con­stant at­ten­tion. It is the an­tithe­sis of what Orozco seeks to do with all things that are fugi­tive and tran­sient.

So it came as a sur­prise to en­ter Orozco's gar­den of con­cen­tric cir­cles in deep­est south Lon­don over­looked by Bru­tal­ist coun­cil es­tates. Still a bit bare, the growth is young, there were scat­tered newly planted rose­mary, thyme, clim­bers of pas­sion flower, alpine plants, helle­bore, ferns, muguet, mag­no­lia, mar­jo­ram, grasses and al­chemilla mol­lis.

Cir­cles play an in­te­gral part in Orozco's work and he sees them as in­stru­ments of move­ment. This re­cur­rence of cir­cles in his work, whether in na­ture or the man made (balls, pud­dles, wheels), is car­ried through the gar­den. It is a ge­om­e­try of in­ter­twin­ing cir­cles out­lined in York stone sub­tly map­ping a se­ries of spa­ces.

Each is lent its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter through slight shifts in form or by be­ing at dif­fer­ent lev­els, var­i­ously planted or fea­tur­ing seat­ing, a sink, water butts or a bowl built up with bricks. It is all har­mo­nious and keep­ing with what a gar­den can be, with the spa­ces be­ing used in­ter­change­ably for rest­ing, eat­ing, play­ing or show­ing work by other artists. The lo­cal York stone is laid out in bricks echo­ing the Vic­to­rian style of the South Lon­don Gallery. In­flu­enced by the con­cept of ur­ban de­cay, he de­signed the gar­den in a way for it to be grad­u­ally in­vaded by grasses and ground cov­ers, which were cho­sen by the Royal Botanic Gar­dens Kew and in­clude some 60 plants and bulbs; by do­ing so, the gar­den would as­sume a more nat­u­ral char­ac­ter and high­light Orozco’s par­tic­u­lar con­cept of find­ing beauty in the or­di­nary.

In its present state a flicker of dis­ap­point­ment crosses one’s mind, one is un­der whelmed, but that is be­cause the gar­den is only in its early growth. The in­ten­tion is that it will be­come over grown and ram­bling with grasses, creep­ers, clim­bers and fra­grant flow­ers and the York stone will all but dis­ap­pear. And the good news for the lo­cals is that it is open to the res­i­dents of the Sceaux hous­ing es­tate giv­ing them much needed green­ery.

There is a hint of the Zen in the South Lon­don Gallery gar­den, and this may be be­cause Orozco cur­rently lives in Tokyo. “Zen has al­ways had an im­por­tance for me; I en­joy read­ing about Zen. I’m not a re­li­gious per­son, but no­tions of the void, empti­ness and time, the per­cep­tion of land­scape in­ter­est me. I like the Suiseki tra­di­tion (ap­pre­ci­a­tion of nat­u­ral for­ma­tion of rocks), the con­nec­tion with na­ture.”

South Lon­don Gallery gar­den by Gabriel Orozco, 2016 © Gabriel Orozco

Aerial view of the South Lon­don Gallery gar­den by Gabriel Orozco, 2016 © Gabriel Orozco

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