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Asterisms - Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim
This Undreamt Descent - Wangechi Mutu in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden


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Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the
Deutsche Guggenheim

Gabriel Orozco collected thousands of objects to realize his project “Asterisms.” These objects, retrieved from the shores of a natural reserve in Mexico and a playing field in New York, form the core of the 18th commissioned work for the Deutsche Guggenheim. Orozco assembled them into complex installations that can be read both as a criticism of civilization and a poetic topography.

Gabriel Orozco: Asterisms at Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin

Today, even the heavens are in precise order: the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has defined the boundaries of the constellations according to fixed coordinates in the sky. But then there are the “asterisms”—groups of stars that are not defined by these scientific criteria but whose connecting lines produce a noticeable image, for instance an object or figure. Whether they are our historical zodiac signs, the Mayan constellations, or ancient Chinese astronomy, they are all based on asterisms. The pictures we see in the sky are always subjective projections: different cultures recognize different images. Asterisms, the title of Gabriel Orozco’s installation at the Deutsche Guggenheim, gives expression to this human need to create order in the world and perceive meaning in the existing constellations.

Asterisms was realized as the 18th of a series of commissioned works for the Berlin exhibition hall. For the project, the artist, born in 1962 in Mexico, collected thousands of objects that he found in two very different locations: he removed countless tiny fragments such as bottle caps and bits of plastic and chewing gum from the artificial grass of a sports field near his apartment in New York; and on the coast of the Baja California natural preserve in Mexico, he collected the garbage of civilization that washes ashore even in this protected refuge, such as plastic buoys, protective helmets, and glass bottles. Spread out in an order on the floor, the flotsam, nearly 1,200 found pieces, forms a monumental sea of objects. The installation, titled Sandstars, is accompanied by twelve large-format photographs in which Orozco photographed the objects in the studio arranged typologically according to material, color, and size. Another photographic work shows the landscape where the found objects washed ashore with random-seeming objects from the beach ordered according to the same grid principle.

Astroturf Constellation, the second work of the exhibition, also explores these kinds of ordering patterns. Here, however, the objects have a completely different scale: the work is comprised of miniscule bits of debris left behind by athletes and spectators in the Astroturf of a playing field on Pier 40 in New York. Orozco displays these myriad items—numbering nearly 1,200—on a large platform. “It is very interesting to compare the two works,” explains Joan Young, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the New York Guggenheim Museum, who curated the exhibition project together with Nancy Spector, in an interview with ArtMag. “Astroturf Constellation, the New York work, is composed of these small fragments. Through the photographs each of these objects is actually enlarged. So a shift of scale takes place there. The reverse happens in the “Sandstars” piece, where the photo reduces the object in size. The equalizing that occurs through the medium of photography highlights the relationships between the objects in both works. There is this shift between the macro and the micro, between whole objects and fragments of objects.“ Asterisms juxtaposes these two large installations that oscillate between the macro and the micro planes. In the process, the exhibition project invokes several of the artist’s recurring motifs: poetic encounters with mundane materials, traces of erosion, and the ever-present tension between nature and culture.

Gabriel Orozco: Asterisms
7/6 – 10/21/2012
Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin

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