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Dynamic Duo - Preview Frieze London and Frieze Masters
Fabian Marti: Trip to the Other Side
Gabriel Orozco: The Poetry of Everyday Objects and Unwanted Things
An Interview with the Brazilian Street Artists Os Gêmeos
Wallpaper and Transcendence: Shannon Bool - Excursions into Modernism
Loss of Artistic Control - Pierre Huyghe´s Biotope at documenta
An Encounter with Mathilde ter Heijne
If the Beach Gets Too Boring: ArtMag’s Summer Tips
Curator Joan Young on Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim
Deutsche Bank Collection goes App


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Gabriel Orozco
The Poetry of Everyday Objects and Unwanted Things

Gabriel Orozco is regarded as one of the most important artists of contemporary times. His installations, sculptures, photographs, and paintings are largely dedicated to the ephemeral in everyday objects, situation, and experiences. With Orozco, anything can transform into art: yoghurt containers, cars, even an entire whale skeleton. On the occasion of his commissioned work "Asterisms" for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Ulrich Clewing introduces the work of the artist nomad, who divides his time between Mexico, France and the USA.

Something is not quite right about this car. From the side everything seems fine, but from the front it appears oddly shrunken. Indeed, the 1960 Citroën DS is missing two feet from its width. Gabriel Orozco and one of his assistants meddled around with it in a mechanic’s shop before shipping it off to Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris. At first, they removed the two seats and the motor. Then they made two cuts along the length of the chassis, removed the middle section, and joined the two remaining outer halves together. In the end, the seats were reinstalled—one in the front and one in back.

The implications of La DS (1993) are clear, partly because the word for car in French is feminine and the model name DS, pronounced “déesse,” sounds like “goddess.” After Orozco’s modification, this futuristic national icon, celebrated at its presentation in 1955 as the quintessence of French avant-garde technology, was still streamlined but even sleeker than before. On the other hand, it was nothing more than a heap of metal. “Vanished wishes of a ravenous technical era … footnotes of a visionary mind at the end of a blurring millennium,” wrote art critic Francesco Bonami in the magazine Flash Art at the time.

When Orozco showed La DS in Paris, he was 31 years old and considered a promising young artist. Nearly 20 years later, he is an international star with exhibitions in renowned museums and work in collections worldwide. He has taken part in the Venice Biennale three times and twice in Documenta in Kassel. Most recently, a survey of his works was on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010); Kunstmuseum Basel (2010); and Tate Modern, London (2011).

The car sculpture, which has since been purchased by the French government, is not only one of his most famous works, but also highly typical of the artist’s working method, which has exerted an enormous influence on sculpture in recent decades. For Orozco, who was born in Mexico in 1962 to a painter and a pianist, the whole world is material—he uses almost anything in his highly versatile work. In most cases, everyday objects become the point of departure for his sculptural interventions; he often employs items that have been thrown away and are no longer needed, what others would call garbage. For Orozco, there are no boundaries when defining artistic material; he resists being identified with one discipline. He makes videos, creates performances, and then photographs the remains; he built a huge wheel for the Expo 2000 in Hannover, half of which was sunk into the ground (Half-Submerged Ferris Wheel, 1997), and he transported an elevator car into a museum, as he did in 1994 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (Elevator, 1994). Long before Damien Hirst, Orozco took a human skull and drew a diamond pattern on it in pencil (Black Kites, 1997); he pressed together a lump of clay before his chest, and when he let go, the imprint of his hands resembled a heart muscle (My Hands Are My Heart, 1991). Photos, actions, readymades—all are a part of his work. And sometimes he does almost nothing. A year after La DS, in an exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, he challenged the viewer with a completely empty room in which he hung four small yogurt lids, one for each wall (Yogurt Caps, 1994). Not everyone was pleased about the extremely minimalist presentation, but there had not been a gallery exhibition in a long time that incited as much discussion over the relationship between presence and imagination as this one did.

On another occasion, Orozco received an invitation to show work at the Douglas Hyde Gallery of Trinity College in Dublin. Here he arrived almost without luggage; or more specifically, he did not bring any artworks with him. He restricted himself to what he found on-site: an old broom, a cup of coffee, a used paint roller, a wineglass, and an empty box of lightbulbs. Such an impromptu process certainly risked the quality of the final work, but then something unpredictable happened: using a simple but highly effective trick, he lent The Weight of the Sun (2003) a poetry that only existed in his imagination at first, but became all the more visible later. Using thread, he tied the broom, cup, glass, paint roll, and box to the ceiling; then he tied them to one another. After he finished, the objects seemed to hover in the space, as though held in place by ghosts. When one object was moved, they all moved in a ballet of banal, utilitarian objects that had traded in their ordinariness for a magical new life.

The language of Orozco’s installations is that of a globetrotter. It seeks the universal, finding a strange, intrinsic poetry in all things. He has worked in Berlin, the Costa Rican rain forest, and New Delhi. He lives with his wife Maria Gutierrez and their son Simón in Mexico City, New York, and Paris or, as he puts it, in “three different cultures, languages, mentalities, and ways of thinking.” While his lifestyle reflects that of today’s international contemporary artists, his aesthetic does not forsake the intimate, domestic realm. For Lintels (2001), he hung objects in his New York gallery that look like fabric; they flutter at the slightest breeze. The installation consists of lint the artist found in clothes dryers, draped over clotheslines that stretch across the gallery. New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl remarked that once one manages to stop seeing mere debris in the lint, “its fragility stirs surprisingly tender feelings”—a rather succinct summation of Orozco’s art and process.

While Orozco can be extremely exact in his work, improvisation is a method he often uses. For Black Kites, his black-and-white patterned skull, he drew the delicate lines with precision. But for Penske Work Project (1998), it was the other way around. For four weeks, he drove a Penske rental truck around Manhattan, collecting garbage from dumpsters and making art right in the bed of the truck. The working principle was total chance. “It’s a kind of game,” Orozco recalled in the catalogue for his 2009–11 survey exhibition. “I drove the truck around the city, and I was only allowed to use what I found, and I had to think something up right then and there. And so I worked, sometimes for 30 minutes, and sometimes for two hours, until I found a solution that I liked. And then I made a Polaroid photo to help my memory, carted the thing inside the truck, and drove to the next place.”

In both Black Kites and Penske Work Project, the artist moved found objects from a simple to a more complex context but through two different processes. Orozco’s tendency toward expanded meaning explains in part why a library is an appropriate place to present his art. One of his most spectacular works hangs in the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City, which opened in 2006: the artist covered a gray whale skeleton, similar to what he did to the human skull, in a rhythmic pattern. Twenty assistants used 6,000 mechanical pencils to apply the fine graphite lines to the huge bone structure, now titled Mobile Matrix (2006). Orozco had found the skeleton on the shore of Isla Arena in Baja California, a nature preserve in which, unfortunately, the protection of nature is not all that happens. In addition to the dead whales that occasionally wash up with the ocean’s waves, garbage of every kind comes ashore. As he demonstrated with Penske Work Project, for Orozco it provided a perfect reservoir of material to work with.

In preparation for the exhibition Asterisms at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Orozco returned to Isla Arena to collect objects from the beach once again. This journey repeated a process carried out at the Pier 40 recreational park in Manhattan, where he searched the artificial lawn for small bits of detritus—for instance, bottle caps, cigarette butts, and chewing gum in all colors—which he will present in the exhibition hall on Unter den Linden along with photographic works and a video. But first he will slightly transform them through his unique sensibility, allowing them to speak to the fragile state of nature and civilization in the early 21st century.

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On View
This Undreamt Descent - Wangechi Mutu in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden / Asterisms - Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim / The Sight of Sound - Art and Music at 60 Wall Gallery
Portikus turns into a Camera Obscura - Deutsche Bank Stiftung Supports Extraordinary Exhibition Project / Deutsche Bank Foundation Sponsors MMK Talks / Cai Guo-Qiang Honored with the Praemium Imperiale / Yto Barrada at MACRO / GO - Encounter with Brooklyn´s creative art scene / Baselitz - Immendorff - Schönebeck at Villa Wessel / Fantastic Twins - Deutsche Bank sponsors Os Gêmeos show at the ICA in Boston / William Kentridge at the Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam / Villa Romana Prizewinners 2013 - Four artists receive fellowships in the renowned artists’ house / Create Festival Celebrates the Creative Scene in East London
The press on Roman Ondák´s project for the Deutsche Guggenheim / The Press on the Premiere of Frieze New York
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