Thinking about Orozco

I have been thinking about the Orozco show I saw at the Tate in London , about a month ago. At the time I am not sure I really enjoyed it – I didn’t know his work , so I found it difficult to understand what the work was doing .

I had seen a photo of a Citroen  cut down in size  (LaDS 1993) which  intrigued me – it was in the show and was probably the strongest work displayed – along with a human skull covered in  a pencil pattern called Black Kites (1997).Both were  used to advertise the show.

The rest of the show comprised a mixture of work. From paintings of circles and folded paper to  photographs and modified  games. There was a room full of obituaries from the New York Times – and another room of blown out pieces of tyres  taken from the roadside in Mexico.

A room of hanging dryer lint taken from laundrettes in New York shortly after 9/11 was for me perhaps the most engaging piece – referring the human traces left behind after a tragedy of this scale.

There was a  playfulness and a seriousness to the show –referencing  death and fun at the same time.

Photos of oranges on market stalls in an empty market , melons with cans of tuna arranged on them in a supermarket – signs of being alive , of fleeting moments and the enjoyment of witnessing life. This work operates in the realm of the social infrathin . They are like a  record of what it is to be alive and are suggestive of small revolutions  inside a bigger system.They are very human.

He mixes the systematic with the organic and looks at the orderly structures of game playing. His paintings are in fact diagrams  of possibilities , decisions, responses and moves involved in playing any game. Reinventing chess  using only Knights (Horses Running Endlessly 1995)and creating a billiard table with the ball attached to a string from above (Carambole  with Pendulum 1996) –   inviting the viewers to interact with the work and with each other.

Orozco’s empty shoe box represents a still life for today. Arguably the most significant object in the show – it plays with the public’s notion of what art is. Is the box an empty gesture- the emperor’s new clothes? Like Duchamp -it focuses on the idea and concept more than the execution of the work where the viewers are an adjunct to the work .For Orozco it is a personal attempt to see and understand the common stuff of life in a new way through endless experimentation. He finds new ways of looking at familiar things. He challenges our concept of utility – of what things are to us  and asks us what is relevant and what is not.


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