New York

Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco’s New York gallery debut seemed to have been painstakingly calibrated to confound the viewer’s expectations. The immediate impression upon entering the gallery was one of serene emptiness disrupted only by a small, thin blue ring at eye level in the center of each of the four walls. Upon closer examination, these rings turned out to be nearly identical plastic lids from yogurt containers that are transparent in the middle. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that absolutely nothing had been done to the lids: the price tags and expiration dates (one from May, three from September) were still largely intact. In the side gallery was a larger piece, consisting of a pair of metal tables with white plywood surfaces and an almost imperceptible groove along the top edge. Five identical plywood slats, several inches in width, were wedged into place to form arcs bridging the outer sides of both tables. The third work in the show was a small blue plasticene ball placed on a lower shelf at the gallery’s entrance, usually filled with catalogues of the gallery’s artists. Facing the viewer, on the ball’s surface, was the tiny decal of a star, and the letters C.C.C.P. (U.S.S.R. in Cyrillic).

Although he is one of the most celebrated young artists to emerge from Latin America in recent years, it is practically impossible to speak of Orozco’s work in terms of a personal style. His art consists almost entirely of semiperceptible interventions for which he uses materials he finds on site. Though infused with a spirit of conditionality and impermanence that one might associate with the late Gordon Matta-Clark, Orozco’s quiet, nearly self-effacing manner of locating and presenting his work is actually more reminiscent of David Ireland’s, which often involves arriving at the exhibition site without materials or even a specific plan for how to proceed. The stripped-down nature of Orozco’s exhibition also conjures up other precursors, from arte povera to current ephemeralists like Richard Tuttle and Lawrence Weiner.

Though clearly linked to these earlier models, Orozco’s esthetic is infused with the unusually broad range of associations his objects evoke. For example, while he uses the detritus of modern life to carry out a playful intervention in the gallery, it is hard not to think of the relationship of the yogurt lids to eating. In like manner, the table piece, made for an exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, incorporates materials the artist found there, suggesting both the physical act of working and the accumulated histories of the site, while the plasticene ball addresses the temporality of all things, even empires. Orozco’s art may come directly out of his experience in the world, but once it takes on physical form, it seems to offer a kind of poetic refuge—not from the world itself so much as from the inability to conceive of a transcendental moment without a corresponding need to erect a monument in its place.

Dan Cameron