FINE ART REVIEW Patrick Reyntiens Gabriel Orozco
Just occasionally Mexico surprises the world in producing an artist of singular genius. But then, Mexico is a country which is composed of elements that no one could imagine.
In this exhibition perhaps the most symbolic room in the huge exposé of Gabriel Orozco’s work might be number eight – with only one exhibit, Chicotes, in it. This is a very large expanse of flicketty rubber tyre fragments; the sort of things that lie on the side of every road in Mexico – one in almost every quarter of a mile. Here they are, at our feet, with pools and puddles of silver nestling in their flat hollows; these are made of melted aluminium. It is a suitable symbol of Mexico, surely. But what a poetic reinterpretation, and re-presentation, of waste normally totally ignored.
In fact most of Orozco’s works are engaged with things we normally ignore. The drawings, paintings, photographs and writings – to say nothing of the sculptures – are most of them original transfigurations of the “normal”. We are reminded that everything visible and tangible in our lives has one, or two, or three, different dimensions.
In room three there is a modified version of a Citroën DS, so streamlined (the centre section is removed so there is only half of it left in the presented sculpture) that the bonnet of this “motor-sculpture” almost reminds us of the skull-formation of a racing horse. There is only room for two in this chef-d’oeuvre, one in front with the steering wheel, and one behind, but don’t worry, there is no engine in it. One is tempted to think that had Citroën managed to produce a car of such astonishing economy and elegance it is probable that a quarter of a million of them would have been sold in Japan alone. But when you examine this eccentric masterpiece be careful. Do not accidentally kick the shoe box in the middle of this gallery. It is an exhibit. Contemplate it in its Cubist character, and realise that sculpture is everywhere. There are many photographs of Schwalbe scooters in another gallery, and these Vespa-derivative bikes, made in East Germany, were a feature of Orozco’s stay in Berlin. He could not stop riding them and he could not stop photographing them – always in pairs. And, after looking at the photograph of a sleeping dog (room six) one imagines these pretty little get-abouts were almost like a pair of loving animals every time they were caught together in the thoroughfare. And their shapes are quite sculptural too; one does not forget that – but, come to think of it, one does not forget anything that Orozco has done. The act of memory is one of the most important aspects of his mature work.
The beautiful paintings of circular colourings, sometimes intertwined with racing horses or young men in action, are a demonstration of the subtle geometry of proportion and placement that makes the movement of the human body possible in all its variations. These paintings, which are entirely made of intricate and interpenetrative circles, half-circles and many tiny concomitant quarter-circles in many different sizes and intimate juxtapositions, have a reference, almost, to the work of the late John Michell in his book on sacred geometry, The Dimensions of Paradise.
Orozco’s drawings are of an exactitude and precision that has to be seen in the original. The extraordinary sensitivity of the handling is almost parallel to the sense of feeling in the human body. Then again, the observation of those small items of obituaries found in New York newspapers is something that tells us of Orozco’s care in noticing and recording them, one after another, after another. We spend the time he expects from us in the detailed reading of the small, sentence by sentence. Perhaps, in all its astonishing variety and originality, the two symbols that initially attract our attention on first entering the show are Black Kites (1997): a skull with brilliantly, meticulously drawn back and white squares and rectangles which subtly change their shape and character as you go round to view the back. This may have a devious reference to la muerte, always of interest to Mexicans, but it is also a demonstration of the ability to detect sacred geometry.
In the end, the first thing we see in this show is an abstracted human heart in a warm red clay. My hands are my Heart (1991) are two silver dye bleach prints of the unclothed Orozco offering us his heart almost in the way of the image of the Sacred Heart, which he, as a Mexican, would have been aware of since he was a child. So, we leave the heart of Orozco and remember so much – but don’t try to ride the bicycles, Four Cycles (1994), and remember the “ventilation” of four toilet rolls over your head in room four. Oh, and you could play billiards in another gallery on an oval billiard table, but beware, it could be a bit difficult. Or there is a temptation to play chess in room five, as in Horses Running Endlessly (1995), but that might start the disintegration of the planet.
Go to this exciting, mysterious exhibition: you will never seen anything like it again – and you will never forget it.