Gabriel Orozco
Mexico, 1962
The nineties were the decade of multiculturalism. Exhibitions like Magiciens de la Terre, which opened at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1989, or Cocido y crudo, shown at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) in 1994, marked a turning point in the art world, controlled up to that point by European and North American artists (in most cases men). Gabriel Orozco arrived at the right place at the right time: in the mid-nineties, his career took off in a stunning fashion, driven by a new context in which cultural identities confronted each other and took centre stage, and which also had social, economic and political implications following the end of the Cold War. The distinguished German art historian Benjamin Buchloh maintains that Orozco is one of the most significant artists to redefine sculpture in the late 20th and early 21st century. Even in an artistic panorama characterised by dispersal and interdisciplinarity, the author argues that the objects and installations by the Mexican artist, as well as his photographs registering random situations he encounters on the street or in nature—or constructs through subtle gestures—should be seen as important contributions to the sculptural medium, as defined by the spatial relations it establishes and its tactility. More specifically, Buchloh considers Orozco’s work sculptural because it introduces different and free configurations of reality, which enter the realm of the poetic through a sensorial quality that contrasts the “controlled” objectuality of consumer goods. In the same vein, Buchloh draws attention to the “mythical quality” of Orozco’s objects (often linked to popular culture or nature) and emphasises that under no circumstance should this quality be interpreted as an underpinning of the feeble nation-state and cultural identities of our time, but rather as a reflection of their precarious or destructive condition. Photography has played a crucial role in Gabriel Orozco’s artistic practice, allowing him to document fleeting, experimental processes, which might never end up as “sculptures” or objects. He has also used photography to capture scenes of everyday life, particularly significant in light of their poetic qualities. Artworks like Río de basura (1990), Island Within an Island (1993), From Roof to Roof (1993) or Big Bang (1995) are all good examples. The photographs in the ”la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art represent the continuation of this kind of work and were first shown in a solo exhibition at the gallery Kurimanzutto in Mexico City. The images depict unusual situations encountered by chance during the artist’s research in places like the Matehuala Desert, San Luis Potosí or Oaxaca in preparation for the aforementioned exhibition. Each piece evokes a different story using minimal resources, but all of them speak about the fragility of the human condition through seemingly lost or forgotten objects: a dried-out tree with its roots in the air, leaning on the remnants of an adobe wall, personified by the message on the sign hanging from it (Árbol frágil or “fragile tree”); a forlorn and unsettling wooden horse, sitting perfectly still amongst the cacti somewhere in the middle of the desert (Caballo del desierto); or a windscreen riddled with bullet holes, resting against an abandoned TV set, witness to endless, anonymous violence (Altar de parabrisas con balazo)…
Pedro de Llano