Gabriel Orozco: Asterisms
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
November 9, 2012–January 13, 2013
From November 9, 2012 through January 13, 2013, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Gabriel Orozco: Asterisms, a two-part sculptural and photographic installation by the Mexican-born artist comprising thousands of items of detritus he gathered at two sites—a playing field near his home in New York and a protected coastal biosphere in Baja California Sur, Mexico, which is also the repository for flows of industrial and commercial waste from across the Pacific Ocean. The two newly commissioned works invoke several recurring themes in Orozco’s oeuvre, including the traces of erosion, poetic encounters with mundane materials, and the ever-present tension between nature and culture.
One component of the exhibition, Sandstars, responds to the unique environment encountered in Isla Arena, Mexico, a wildlife reserve, which is simultaneously a whale mating ground, whale cemetery, and industrial wasteland. Orozco has worked there before, having extracted from its sands the whale skeleton that forms the sculpture Mobile Matrix (2006), now permanently installed in the Biblioteca de México José Vasconcelos in Mexico City. His return to this sanctuary yielded entirely new results in response to the voluminous amounts of detritus deposited there by ocean currents. He created a large sculptural installation from the refuse he collected—including metal and plastic buoys, athletic balls, glass bottles, incandescent light bulbs, wooden oars, metal implements like screws and hinges, Styrofoam in various forms, construction-site hard hats, and ossified rolls of toilet paper—by subjecting it to taxonomic arrangement on the gallery floor. This monumental sculptural carpet of nearly 1,200 objects is accompanied by twelve large-scale gridded photographs of images of the individual objects in a studio setting, organized typologically by material, color, size, and so on. A thirteenth grid documents the landscape from which the objects were retrieved, along with incidental compositions made in situ from the castaway items. This framed pictorial inventory is shown in proximity to the sculptural accumulation, creating a kind of visual ricochet between an object and its representation. The effect is one of entropic dissolution tempered by rigorous order.
Included with Sandstars is a video, Whale after Waves (2012), which illuminates the environment of Isla Arena.
The second component, Astroturf Constellation, similarly explores taxonomic classification, but on a completely different scale. It comprises a collection of small bits of debris left behind by athletes and spectators in the Astroturf of a playing field on Pier 40 in New York, where the artist regularly throws boomerangs. Orozco displays these myriad items—including coins, sneakers logos, bits of soccer balls, candy wrappers, wads of chewing gum, and tangles of thread, again numbering nearly 1,200—on a large platform. As in Sandstars, the objects are displayed alongside thirteen photographic grids, a combination that again underscores the nuanced relationship between sculpture and photography in Orozco’s oeuvre.
In the exhibition, and the commission as a whole, the two related bodies of work play off each other in a provocative oscillation between the macro and the micro. Asterisms also reveals and amplifies Orozco’s subtle practice of subjecting the world to personal, idiosyncratic systems.