Beyond the Yogurt Cap: New Works by Gabriel Orozco
Gabriel Orozco: Corplegados and Particles at Marian Goodman Gallery
September 14 to October 15, 2011
24 West 57th Street, between 5th and 6th avenues
New York City, 212 977 7160
Gabriel Orozco’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, presented nearly three years ago in December 2009, gave supporters and detractors alike cause for talk. Some of his work, such as the famous—or notorious—top of a Dannon yoghurt carton exhibited in a room by itself, seemed staged deliberately for conflict. A provocation of the mostly middle class audience who dutifully filled the large exhibition, the yoghurt cap posits nothing but its own reality, more than likely discardable at that. The current show consists of Corplegados, or folded bodies, in the front room of the gallery; clay sculptures in the middle room; and Particles, or paintings made by the repetition of small geometric shapes such as circles, in the back. Together, the three bodies of work represent a less alienated—and alienating—artist, whose refusal to stay put in one place makes him one of the first, and one of the best, post-studio artists working today.
The Corplegados, life-size in their dimensions, consist of paper folded four times in half so that they would be portable for the artist as he traveled. Orozco considers these works a kind of notebook, and worked on them, as the press materials explain, in several ways: hung on a wall, put directly on the floor, or folded to a manageable size on the desk. As his sessions of work passed (done while Orozco prepared for his retrospective), the compositions became a kind of palimpsest, replete with marks of ink, gouache, and pasted photographs layered over each other. Reflecting Orozco’s extensive travels, the drawings change from the pastoral to the more urban—from organic to geometric forms. At the same time, the drawings demonstrate the wide range of moods available to the artist, whose insistence on human proportions and on a “conscious” side (which is consciously worked) and an “unconscious” side (left to chance) for each piece suggest that, in addition to renderings of the visible world, the drawings represent states of Orozco’s psyche.
Blackbirds in the Trees, Lac du Bourdon (2010), consists of abstracted black wings in the midst of white blossoms and green leaves; it is a highly lyrical image, which, on its opposite, unworked side is also beautiful if harder to read. Continental Chess Game, New York (2009) offers rows of white and black squares, as occur on a chessboard. In the center, some of the edges of the squares are round, forming a shape suspiciously like a manhole cover—an urban icon if there ever was one. Here Orozco’s sensitivity to his environment becomes more understandable. Conservatory Plan, Roca Bianca (2009), New York (2010) is a marvelous mix of grids, curved lines, and bars and rectangles—an amalgam of architectural effects that has unusual beauty in its own right.
Orozco’s Particle Paintings are very new—less than a year old. They are large figurative images made up of tiny geometric ones: small circular forms that are arranged in grids and deliver to the viewer a broad range of images, including the artist’s own photos, postcards, news images taken from the Internet, favored paintings from art history. The audience can clearly see the small circles from which the big image is composed; colors approximate shadow and create the form of Uncle Ho (2011), a benignly official image of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, or Mondrian’s Composition Grid Red (2011), presumably a favorite choice of Orozco, who comes close to a BenDay dot version in his treatment of a great abstract painting.
In contrast, the installation of clay works seems less high-minded, yet highly original. Anonymous but also familiar — they are vaguely human in form — the pieces look like feet or organs and nicely hold the viewer’s attention. They are interesting alone and in relation to each other, and remind us that Orozco is a highly skilled sculptor. This show, which demonstrates Orozco working in commercially accessible, in facthighly attractive, traditional genres makes the case of mastery in most everything he lays hands to.