When you Google Gabriel Orozco you get the usual hits like Wikipedia, followed by the big international galleries like Tate or MoMA and then of course Marian Goodman, the artist’s main gallerist where his biography opens with a curious statement - ‘lives and works internationally’. Stop and think about that idea for a second; ‘lives and works internationally’. Is it possible to live internationally? The OED defines ‘live’ or ‘living’ as making ones home in a single, specific place, so surely living internationally is a contradiction of this with the international being the very opposite of a single, specific place.
But when you think about Orozco’s practice perhaps that’s the perfect way to define what he does. Never sticking to one traditional medium, rather he immerses himself in a particular place and creates objects that discuss, reflect upon and communicate these cultures and, more importantly, their ideas. Take his 1993 work ‘La DS’ (a Citroen DS with its middle third removed), here’s a work made while living in Paris, which highlights a piece of classic, post-war French design while also raising ideas of space as both a physical and intellectual concept. Conceptualism meets psychogeography or what?
The work in his show at Marian Goodman has been produced over the past year while living (and working) in Japan. This locale is plainly evident from the moment you walk in to a room delicately installed with a series of decorated wooden poles propped up against the gallery walls. This series ‘Roto Shuku’ (a shuku, and correct me if I’m wrong here, is a measurement or length, just under a foot) fills the entire space, each stick carefully decorated with every subsequent piece seemingly building from the last. The tape, pencil and circular cut-outs become more complex as they circulate the room until they are finally awash with colour and form. They are quite simply beautiful, and I use the word rarely and carefully. Formally displayed in crisp rows, at the same height and in precisely ordered groups with an immaculate repetition, they create a kind of calm serenity which, when talking about things-influenced-by-Japan, feels a bit like a stereotypical cop out. But it just works.
The idea of a repeated pattern, especially a repeated circle isn’t new to Orozco’s work and has been present for over a decade now, and the idea continues throughout the show. Next are a series of hanging scrolls made using immaculate kimono silk, cut and collaged to show both sides of the material’s delicate weave. Again the works are quiet and unassuming but they don’t reach the heights of the sticks, and neither do the paintings upstairs. But this doesn’t matter for those first works are as good as anything I’ve seen for a long time.
What Orozco, here and throughout his career, has managed to tell us is that you really can live internationally, picking and choosing bits of culture from wherever you make your home, be it Mexico, France or Japan. Oh, if only we all had the money to live that way.