Jess G. Exhibition Review: Gabriel Orozco

There have been very few times that I can remember being moved by art. The first time was when I saw the work of painter Cy Twombly, the second was in the presence of a piece by famed Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. I have been enthralled with Orozco’s work for some time now, and the very first piece that got my attention was an earlier work of his, “My Hands Are My Heart”(1991). I can barely describe how it felt to stand before it at his retrospective in MoMA. I did not know that it was part of the exhibition and nearly lost my breath when I turned the corner and saw it in front of me.

The “My Hands Are My Heart” consists of a set of intimate photographs documenting Orozco bare-chested, as he compresses a piece of clay in his hands. In the second photo, he opens his hands to reveal the clay baring the impression of his hands, imitating the shape of a heart. The clay was then fired and is featured in front of the photographs on a pedestal enclosed in glass. To most, it may be an unassuming piece, but to me it is a portrait of his process and a small glimpse into how his mind works in relation to his art. In relation to my own work it, it has come to symbolize how I think and feel about my own process, how it is close to my heart and makes up the majority of the fuel that drives me as an artist.

“My Hands Are My Heart” was one of many works on display at Orozco’s MoMA retrospective. The show featured one new work of art, “Samurai Tree Invariants” (2010), which featured walls covered floor to ceiling with digital prints of a stationary circular design with changing colors. Though the pattern in each print was the same, they never repeated themselves through the changing of color is every print. In an interview Orozco says the piece is about experimentation and familiarization of the process and material. The works that “Samurai Tree Invariants” was expanded from were featured in the retrospective and knowing his tendencies, it was easy to understand why he choose to expand the possibilities digitally. In a similar work done in 2005, “Kytes Tree”, Orozco used the movement of a knight in a chess game as a basis for his circular design. “Samurai Tree Invariants” expands on the pattern and the way in which color manipulates it.

The notion of repetition is abundant in Orozco’s work. (Though it is also true that it is nearly impossible to link most works together at all.) As I took an overview walk through the gallery before revisiting each work, I noticed that many of his pieces feature a technique or design used in another piece. Circles are perhaps the most noticeable theme. He also visits and revisits graphite on bone and seashell in many works and experiments. Graphite is also seen on paper in repetitive and non-repetitive drawings. It is clear he is feeling out the material each time he uses it, seeing how it reacts to the paper or bone differently and becomes familiar with the qualities of it in each scenario. Orozco also works a lot with clay. As in “My Hands Are My Heart”, he becomes familiar with the material through the repetition of simply working with it, making different objects of all shapes and sizes using various techniques in which he works the clay.

Having studied his art, I am familiar with the way in which Orozco works. But seeing it in person is something of a different story. As I mentioned earlier, there are definite themes he revisits, but there is also no definite style or media to which he holds true. He follows his curiosities to wherever they may lead and the linking factor between his work lies in the conceptual thinking and process behind the actual object he produces. Walking through his retrospective and seeing a sampling of two decades worth of work by Orozco was something memorable for me. The fact that he does not stick to one particular medium or style only intrigues me further. It is a constant reminder to me that no matter what art I feel like making, no matter what medium I want to work in, that I should not be bound by the constrict of what I, or others, perceive to be my style. The process of making art, familiarizing with the materials I am using, and the expansion upon those two things has always been where my heart lies. I should never criticize myself for wanting to try something new or different and for that I want to thank Gabriel Orozco, for showing that intuition, impulse, and curiosity are an art all on their own.

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