Gabriel Orozco at Tate Modern

I first saw the image of Orozco’s 1997 work ‘Black Kites’ in the book Vitamin D, and it caught my attention in particular as I was working on ideas of 3d drawings myself at the time. Seeing the work first hand was moving- you can’t help but consider the person this skull first belonged to. That orozco spent 6 months painstakingly drawing the design on it when he was recuperating from an illness himself seems to me to provide an insight into the link between the art and the material.

All the publicity around this show at Tate Modern made me mistakenly assume that I knew where he’s coming from, so thought I’d prioritise seeing another show on this trip to London. As it turned out I was aiming for Susan Hiller, only her show is at Tate Britain… So I went to Orozco instead. Which is lucky. Because I loved it.

Orozco’s work is straightforward, intelligent and direct. He presents us with his take on the world, his observations. In his own words art makes the viewer feel ‘individual and conscious’, and it is his ability to convey his individual interests in a way in which the objects and drawings seem familiar and absurd which I find really inspiring.

In his work Carambole with Pendulum (1996) he presents an oval form of a French game (he freely admits that he is obsessed with circular forms, as he has always considered them ‘the most perfect things’), with the red ball suspended over the centre of the baise. The aim of the game is to strike a white ball with the cue and hit the red ball as it moves. This is made harder in Orozco’s version as the red ball swings gently up and out of reach.

The large table sits in the centre of a room, surrounded by photographs which have captured moments of poetry and clarity which the artist has noticed. The peace in the room and the rack of cues spoke of snooker matches to me, and I was really happy when the attendant confirmedI was allowed to play. Setting the balls into motion and watching the red ball form it’s own version of the oval of the table was beautiful. I wished the attendant had agreed to play a game with me…

In another room housing 2010’s Chicotes, the atmosphere was heavy with the small of old tyres. The arrangement of the blown-out fragments on the floor made it seem like a collection, and the violence of the explosions in evidence again succeeded in reminding me of the drivers whose tires these had been. Are they ok? Did they ever reach their destination? The display was orderly, and we were able to walk along one side of it, passing observers. The less successful part of this exhibit was the written accompaniment on the wall. In this it was referred to that the moulted pools of metal amongst the tires are aluminium, supposedly (‘ calling to mind the fragments of the cars themselves’). This seemed ungainly to me as I have yet to see an aluminium car, and these tires were burst rather than burned. Far better to appreciate their solidified curves and colour in contrast to the frizzled blacks of the tires themselves.

Looking at exhibitions like this, I always swing wildly between excitement and despondency: excitement that there are other people in the world working in a way which i identify with and enjoy, and despair that all these things have already been done, leaving less space for my ideas in the world.

Orozco’s concepts of humanity, both poetic and at times brutal, always playful and considered, is a model for me to respond to, rather than feel reduced by.


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