New York

Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco makes art about things (and people and moments) and the spaces between them. We need both to make sense of the world: Trying to see everything, you get only a blur, but look at every other thing, and a pattern emerges. The question becomes, Which things do you choose, and which does your eye (or hand) skip over?

In Orozco’s first solo show in New York, he displayed a single piece, Yogurt Caps, 1994. One blue-rimmed clear plastic lid, complete with expiration date, hung on each of the four walls of the main gallery, highlighting the emptiness between the barely-there readymades. The caps reappear in his current exhibition, this time parenthesizing a very full front room: three distinct pieces displayed in the form of a large, single installation. Two other rooms and even the hallway were packed to the rafters—the exhibition checklist weighs in like a small-town phone book.

This too-muchness doesn’t represent extravagant consumerism but rather approximates everyday accumulation. In the most elaborate project, Penske Works, 1998, Orozco pulled objects out of Dumpsters and construction sites in downtown Manhattan over a four-week period, storing them in a Penske truck (he has no studio) before putting them in the gallery, grouped on the floor, on the wall, and, in one case, hanging from the ceiling. This is garbage of the minimalist, largely generic variety-plastic buckets, sheets of cardboard, metal scraps. In an Art Newspaper interview conducted while he was executing Penske Works, Orozco, talking trash and picking rags, sounds like a connoisseur, preferring one thing to another, making arrangements and photographing them. But the little piles are only moderately compelling, and one has the feeling he deliberately kept the aesthetic at street level; too much tweaking reeks of art.

As Orozco doesn’t seem to differentiate between found and made objects, the chosen and the leftover also inform the work he crafts himself. He created Pinched Stars, 1997, a cluster of shiny, biomorphic forms, by squeezing wax and casting the spaces between his fingers in aluminum. And in the four drawings on computer-generated grids, he colors in some squares and leaves others empty, creating both recognizable and apparently random designs.

The artist occasionally transcends this insistent ordinariness, taking on the immediate social space with joy and humor. Ping-Pond Table, 1998, is a Ping-Pong table for up to four players, shaped like a Greek cross with a lily pond in the center. While game-playing may recall Duchamp, the table lies closer to work by Brazilian artists—Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolés (capes to be worn by the viewer) and Lygia Clark’s Bichos (small, manipulatable sculptures)—creating the opportunity to interact without telling us exactly how to do it. Gallery-goers brave enough to pick up the paddles have to make their own rules.

Like Orozco’s quasi-situationist videos of walks taken through various cities in 1997, most of the work here mimics the quotidian: small choices, the search among the ruins for structure and even meaning.
But we remember the moments—the Ping Pond Table, or the earlier La D.S., 1993, a Citroën with its central third removed lengthwise—when he let us imagine a different world, or at least new relationships between us and our familiar surroundings.

Katy Siegel