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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Exhibitions - Gabriel Orozco - Tate Modern

Star rating – 8/10

I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to art, and I am usually a bit suspicious of modern art that looks like anyone could have produced it (‘yes, but they didn’t’ I hear the familiar response echoing). Whilst Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, with his new exhibition at Tate Modern, likes to create pieces that he claims are not very complicated to make, the impact that they have on the viewer is anything but minimal. This show outlines what an eclectic talent he is, with his photography, sculpture, and installation pieces showing the range of his work to great effect. He claims it’s because he gets bored easily and likes to move onto something new.

Orozco plays with form and with our expectations with startling results. His most famous piece is perhaps ‘La DS’ where he has taken an old Citroën DS from a scrap yard, and used his to fulfil his boyhood dreams of driving an aerodynamic Formula 1 racing car. The car he creates is the result of him cutting the car into three pieces and then removing the central line to produce a very streamlined car indeed. It is witty and clever, and explores the notion of symmetry in a very practical way.

His photographs are a peek at everyday life, whilst seeking out interesting nuances that make them far from banal. Whilst he lived in Berlin he owned a yellow scooter, and as there were not many of them around, he took a photo of his beside every other one that he spotted around the city.

Some pieces are light hearted, with a strong sporting theme, such as ‘Carombole with Pendulum’ which is an oval billiard table with no pockets, where a red ball is suspended on a wire slightly above the table, and the player has to use it to hit the two white balls on the table. Difficult but not impossible, if a little frustrating. But that is Orozco’s aim here. He is playing with the player.

He has collected broken tyres from motorways in Mexico, and they are laid out in ‘Chicotes’ across the floor of a room, with melted metal arranged around them. It reminded me of a nuclear winter scene, or dangerous serpents strewn across the path.

Lots of his art uses the form of the circle in one way or another, and he is fascinated by the planets. I am sure that Don Goodman, the former veteran Wolves striker, would be surprised to find himself in this exhibition with circles drawn around him. There are lots of other great pieces here too that are interesting, enjoyable, and thought provoking. There is an oversized chess board with only knights on it; and ‘Black Kites’, a fabulous human skull that the artist has carefully pencilled on squares to follow the contour of the bone. Orozco is clever, different and intelligent, and obviously does not take all his work very seriously. Fascinating and refreshing stuff.

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