Gabriel Orozco at Centre Pompidou
  • 30
  • Nov
  • 2010

Extract from VingtParis

Orozco01_body Text: Martyn Dunn

Images: Marian Goodman Gallery

The glass walls of the Pompidou’s Galerie Sud provide a fitting home for Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, whose exhibition (on through 3rd January 2011) manifests the twin senses of exploration and receptiveness. It is hard to imagine the selection of sculptures and photographs amid the white walls of the museum’s upper stories, which feel unexpectedly ‘stuffy’ in comparison; a word not often attributed to our most challengingly modern of structures (even though the show’s major spectacle, La DS – a modified Citroën car, could certainly travel up the escalator).

The exhibition is conveniently split into three main areas, each with its own definite tone, but with plenty of surprises following the spectator along their tour. Upon entering, one encounters Orozco’s Working Tables (1990), three worn wooden market tables littered with artefacts. I will hold back details as much of the enjoyment derives from the sense of discovery. The first table appears as a collection of childhood souvenirs and the selection of spherical stone objects that litter the surface appear both primitive and atavistic when seen next to a model aeroplane and spacecraft.

Various objects reflect an admiration for our lost ability to freely examine and experiment, with forms and objects which have long become banal to us. Two Socks (1995) are, unsurprisingly, two socks, but swollen by a papier mâché balloon with new dimension. Not far away a miniature reproduction of the Citroën gives a sly wink to its older brother across the room.

Cats and Watermelons The second table is remarkably spacious in comparison to the first and evokes an utterly different reaction in the spectator. Here clay and terracotta works lie encased in antique display cases, while others, remarkably seal-like, lie serenely on the wood. Among famous works such as Horses Running Endlessly – the artist’s equine dominated take on the chessboard – is a novel piece created especially for this show. In French Flies (2010) – numerous flies and other winged insects encased in clay, are multiple mementos of a summer the artist spent in the French countryside. Watch your back here as imported Mexican ‘guards’ are in position to prevent you getting too close.

The second section of the exhibition grows in scale and impact, beginning with the modified Citroen car, cut along the centre by the artist himself and grafted back together, minus the centre section, creating a distorted size that comes closer to Orozco’s own love for racing vehicles. This object is definitely the exhibition showpiece, an effortlessly cool design attracting multiple onlookers from its opportune placement near the windows of the south gallery. Space and its distortion are developed as we progress onwards.

An entire lift, shrunk to the specifics of the artist’s height, is deposited in the centre of the gallery. Once inside a strange atmosphere exists. Orozco’s physical dimensions surround you, causing you to hunch forward or stretch out to replicate them. The baton of child-like experimentation is taken up here and run with. A pressurized vulcanized rubber ball looks like an inner tube blown to bursting point, and Eyes under Elephant Foot (2009) echoes the content of children’s nightmares, or literature, which you can gather from the piece’s description “Beaucarnea trunk and glass eyes”.

Yielding Stone (1992) stands as a motif for the artist’s work on display. The giant plasticine ball that was rolled down streets in New York and followed on subsequent travels now bears the imprint of the debris against which it came into contact. The values of experience are displayed within the photography that leads to the third and final stage of the exhibit. Circling the right hand side, images are both spontaneous, unmediated snapshots of travel, and constructed, with the placement of alien objects in mundane scenes. Eleven pairs of cat’s eyes peer from the tips of watermelons, in the aptly named Cats and Watermelons (1992).

The tour ends with the famous geometric patterns that are Orozco’s signature pieces, but which deviate into a more modernist vein than we have seen up to this point within this most personal of shows. However, as one looks upon the varicoloured circles that appear in grandiose scale and turns to look back over the entire show, the proliferation of circles and spheres is hard to ignore. Possibly this reflects the artists occupation with the revolution of youth to adulthood and the nostalgic look backwards, or is maybe a nod to the Mexican’s other great passion, a football…

Until 3rd January 2011

Centre Pompidou


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