Gabriel Orozco

Galerie Crousel-Robelin/Bama

Acclaimed for his two recent solo exhibitions (one organized by the Kanaal Art Foundation in Kortrijk, Belgium, in the spring of 1993; the other last autumn for the “Projects” series at New York’s Museum of Modern Art), Gabriel Orozco showed his work for the first time in France last year. La D.S., 1993, conceived specifically for this exhibition, reigned alone at the center of the main gallery space. Summarily described, it was, one could say, an automobile (the Citroën D.S.), which Orozco subjected to a triple process: fragmentation, subtraction, and reassembly. The car was in fact cut lengthwise into three roughly equal parts, the two lateral pieces then carefully put back together to form a more narrow vehicle of radically altered proportions.

A complex operation, and a disconcerting result: La D.S. presents itself to the spectator like a sphinx, whose premeditated character (which cannot escape notice) hits us with all the force of an enigma. But to return to certain associations that initially sprang to mind: first, Gordon Matta-Clark and his Splitting, 1974, (a house split in two), but also “splitting” with an accent on the surgical connotations—ablation and suture—the result of which, if transposed into the three dimensional, somewhat resembles the kind of stylization that anthropologists have dubbed “split representation.”

A kind of arrow mounted on four wheels, Orozco’s La D.S. is perhaps the anamorphosis of the Car. The Citroën D.S., for those French who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, represents the automobile par excellence. Roland Barthes, who dedicated one of his famous Mythologies to it, underlined its quality as an “object descended from another universe,” and drew our attention to its name, which one cannot help hearing also as “la déesse” (the goddess). Orozco’s treatment of it goes even further toward advancing the notion of this car as a “sculptural aerolite.” But making the piece available to the public—visitors were free to touch, to open the doors and trunk, even to sit in the seats—constituted a divergence from the usual relation between the work of art and the spectator; it was more like a vehicle in a salesroom. The spectator’s status became strangely uncertain, divided between the role of driver—but a driver with limited powers (only because this D.S. no longer has a motor)—and the role of viewer, but a viewer on whom, for once, there was no weight of noli me tangere. Seated like an old child behind the steering wheel of this obstinately immobile, giant toy, one found oneself in one of the most disorienting situations that an art gallery can offer.

The exhibition was completed on the lower level with a few smaller works, including Ligne d’abandon (Line of abandonment, 1993), a sound-piece realized with Manuel Rocha, taken from the sound of tires screeching on asphalt. They all confirmed one thing: from now on, we will have to reckon with Orozco.

Jean-Pierre Criqui

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.