Mexico City

Tony Orrico, Untitled (mask), 2015, Sri Lankan graphite, porcupine quills, starfish, tape, solder, paper clips, seashell, chicken bones, beads, barro negro, semen, hair, 10 1/4 × 7 × 13".

Tony Orrico, Untitled (mask), 2015, Sri Lankan graphite, porcupine quills, starfish, tape, solder, paper clips, seashell, chicken bones, beads, barro negro, semen, hair, 10 1/4 × 7 × 13".

Tony Orrico

MARSO

Tony Orrico, Untitled (mask), 2015, Sri Lankan graphite, porcupine quills, starfish, tape, solder, paper clips, seashell, chicken bones, beads, barro negro, semen, hair, 10 1/4 × 7 × 13".

Tony Orrico’s work is an exploration of the infinite and finite dimensions that inhabit our body—both its maximum potentials and its frail and perishable reality. His performative drawings are configured by countless graphite traces. This exhibition, “Movement Toward 
Definition,” focused on the American artist’s recent work, although two 2011 works from his “Penwald” series, 2009–, were also included to establish some context for his current practice.

Waning (Hyde Park, Arts Center, Chicago, IL), 2013, is a mountain-like figure drawn in graphite on a sheet covering almost an entire wall. The traces captured inside its imprecise borders seem like a vibrating checkerboard pattern. Up close, the lines reveal a wavering quality that testifies to their status as corporeal evidence, and yet the intensity marked by their ambiguous configuration suggests that these are not necessarily marks made under the artist’s control. Their irregularities (in trajectory, length, intensity) seem to resonate within the most intimate sensible energy of the viewer’s nervous system. The quality, consistency, density, and imperfection captured in each trace make it feel as if it had just been drawn, lending it a latent energy that unexpectedly echoes within the other almost-still body in the room: that of the viewer.

On a small screen, we could see the documentation of this drawing being made: Against a white wall, a man—the artist himself, who 
was formerly a professional dancer with the Trisha Brown Dance Company—stands against a wall (sometimes facing it, sometimes with his back to it), holding thick graphite pencils in both hands. It’s as if he’s trying to undo the divide between his own body and the crisp white wall. Then he falls down onto the floor, dragging his arms against the wall while struggling to keep both hands in contact with its surface. Each fall leaves two wandering lines on the wall, every mark revealing, in its own manner, the body’s strength and endurance. Orrico gets up and repeats the action over and over again, falling first to one side, then the other—insistently, relentlessly, yet hopefully tracing his own fleshly finitude. His traces probe the potential of the human body as both creator and subject. The artist confronts the body within its own 
singular dimensions, capacity for movement, and unspoken inner rhythms, allowing the audience to understand through the body’s delicate, shivering murmur that our corporeal groundings are limitless energy; it is this core vital dynamism that the artist aims to limn again and again in his work.

Also shown here were Orrico’s first sculptural works created with “other bodies” (porcupine spines, chicken bones, shells, and so on). What appears to be a delicately arched human back is instead a succession of graphite-covered echinoderms (Standing Knobby Starfish, 2015). By relating the creature’s outward skeleton to our internal one—also resilient but not openly visible, and protected by our flesh—the artist evokes a sense of enduring corporeality that transcends the differences between species. In all the works gathered in this exhibition, drawings and sculptures, the viewer rediscovers his or her own body as an energy-compacted witness conveyed within space. The bodies Orrico aims to “move toward definition” seem to shed their own temporal, material, and contextual roots, so as to offer us the possibility of reconstructing traces of unexpected relationships that are fleeting yet eternal.

Marcela Quiroz