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Curator Joan Young on Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim
Everyone is a Performer: Roman Ondák's "do not walk outside this area" at the Deutsche Guggenheim
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Gate to the Present - Wilhelm Sasnal in the Haus der Kunst in Munich
“Color in outer space is nonsense, in any case.”: Tracing Thomas Ruff’s Work
An interview with Brendan Fernandes

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“The poetic and the everyday”
Curator Joan Young on Gabriel Orozco’s Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim


Gabriel Orozco is as inspired by art history as by the streets of Berlin or Mexico City. But it was the objects he found on the shores of a Mexican nature reserve and the artificial lawn of a New York ballpark that moved the 1962-born artist to create his commissioned work "Asterisms" for the Deutsche Guggenheim. Joan Young, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, curated Orozco’s current exhibition project together with Nancy Spector. In an interview, she describes how "Asterisms" came about and explains how Orozco helps us see the things around us in a completely new way.


Achim Drucks: He divides his time between France, United States and Mexico, actualizes his projects and exhibitions all over the world. Is Gabriel Orozco the quintessential contemporary nomadic artist?

Joan Young: This characterization seems quite accurate in that wherever he is, Orozco is a keen observer who then communicates his observations to a wider audience.

How would you describe Orozco’s importance for the contemporary art scene?

I think he has definitely been an influence on contemporary artists, particularly in terms of the multitude of media in which he works. He has a very open practice and readily responds to the variety of environments that he finds himself in. I also think of the nature of play and games he engages in his works. You can see his influence not only on the group of artists from Mexico City that he has impacted there, but really across the globe.

You are curating Orozco’s exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim together with Nancy Spector. How did the project come into being and how did it evolve?


The Guggenheim Museum has long been interested in Orozco and has collected a number of his photographic works. This program of commissions that the Deutsche Guggenheim has enabled us to do has often been an opportunity to work further with artists with whom we had relationships or wanted to build a deeper relationship. So we approached Gabriel Orozco to ask if he would be interested and he agreed. It took some time to develop a project that would really respond to the exhibition space and to this time in his own career. What he has come up with is something new that is still very much in tune with his practice and his prior artmaking.

Gabriel Orozco’s Deutsche Guggenheim commission responds to the environment of Isla Arena, Mexico. What is so special about this island? And what meaning does it have for the artist?

There are actually two components to the commission. One deals with New York and one with Isla Arena. These projects evolved nearly simultaneously. In New York Orozco was playing soccer in a sports field near his home; he also went there to throw boomerangs, which is one of his hobbies. He noticed certain kinds of materials that lay on the field. They were left behind by various users of the space and he started to collect this material. With Isla Arena he had been there previously. It was the site in which he found the whale skeleton from which he created Mobile Matrix (2006), which now hangs in the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City. The island is basically a sand bank in a bay where grey whales come to mate, give birth, and sometimes also return to die. It is a national conservation area and not accessible to the public. He was only able to get there with special permission from the government. While looking for the skeleton he also noticed the amount of refuse and detritus on the beach. What he found on the playing field in New York reminded him of that experience. And so he returned to the island with the idea to collect some of the residue that has been washed ashore by the sea.

The sculptural part of the artwork “Sandstars” is a carpet-like work made of objects found on the beach of Isla Arena. The glass bottles, floaters of fishing nets, or stones are arranged according to their material, color, or size. These typologies remind me of the way biologists try to classify certain species. Or one could think of an archaeologist who presents his findings. Could one regard Orozco as a kind of archaeologist of the present?

I think that is what he had in mind in terms of dealing with these materials. He was thinking about the way that scientists approach and present their materials and how it is that information is organized. I think he recognizes that all of these systems of organization are subjective and personal to some extent. Orozco explores these means of communicating information, but in a very personal language.

Looking at the found objects, one is reminded of pollution and its consequences for the environment. But at the same time, at least some of these objects possess a great aesthetic appeal. How important are themes like nature versus culture or the mundane and the poetic for Orozco’s work?

These are important themes across his oeuvre – the poetic and the everyday is something that he has often captured, especially in his photographic works that often feature incidental sculptures that he encounters and records. In a way, this project is simply a presentation of the material that he has encountered, but through the arrangement the sorts of beauty, uniqueness, and exceptional qualities of these materials are revealed.

This “sculptural carpet” is accompanied by grids of photographs taken in the studio. How do these works add to the installation?

The photographs further demonstrate the scientific approach that he has taken to these materials that he’s gathered. Each object is photographed individually in the same format and under the same conditions. Each object can be looked at individually and is, in a way, equalized. By doing so, each object is reduced or enlarged to basically the same size. This provides the viewer with a different perspective on the object. It is very interesting to compare the two works – Astroturf Constellation, the piece from the New York City playing field, and Sandstars, the piece from Mexico. Astroturf Constellation 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. There are many formal similarities between the two projects, such as the prevalence of certain colors, shapes, materials. The projects make you ponder the material world in which we live.

What role does the medium of photography play in Orozco’s work in general?

For me what it most exemplifies is the way Orozco sees the world, which then informs all the other types of work he creates. Photography reveals his unique view on the world, although it can be more than a recording instrument. It can shift your perspective, illuminating things that you often don’t notice, that you usually pass by.

Like his famous photography „Sleeping Dog“ (1990).

Yes. Much of his photography is so quiet and so seemingly simple. The photographs encourage you to look at his sculptures or other works in that very careful, quiet way so that you begin to notice their particular shapes, forms and textures.

If you think about the title of the exhibition, “Asterisms,” there also seems to be a kind of cosmic dimension to these projects.

They are composed of individual objects or elements that can possibly be linked in the way that stars are understood to be grouped in the sky. Orozco gathers these materials in which viewers might see certain connections – as if they were a constellation. There is an infinite number of stars and these artworks might be considered a kind of metaphor for the seemingly infinite number of objects in the material world around us.

Gabriel Orozco: Asterisms
July 6 - October 21, 2012
Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin




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On View
Roman Ondák's Project for the Deutsche Guggenheim / The Sight of Sound - Art and Music at 60 Wall Gallery / Cornelia Schleime at Deutsche Bank Luxembourg
News
Deutsche Bank sponsors the major Jasper Johns show in Săo Paulo / Surreal Product Landscapes - Jeff Koons in Frankfurt / A great performance: Artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection at documenta 13 / Retro-Fictions: Made in Germany Two in Hanover / Pawel Althamer in Berlin, Bolzano, and Munich / An Invitation to See: Yto Barrada in the Ikon Gallery / Space for Wild Thought - The 2012 Paris Triennale
Press
The Press on the Premiere of Frieze New York / The Press on "Found in Translation"at the Deutsche Guggenheim / "Frankfurt Museum Wonder" - The Press on the New Städel Museum
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