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Artists Gabriel Orozco
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Gabriel Orozco

Mexican-American Sculptor, Photographer, and Conceptual Artist

Movement: Conceptual Art

Born: April 27, 1962 - Jalapa, Mexico

Gabriel Orozco Timeline

Quotes

"The process of living and the process of thinking and perceiving the world happen in everyday life. I've found that sometimes the studio is an isolated place, an artificial place like a bubble - a bubble in which the artist is by himself, thinking about himself. It becomes too grand a space."
Gabriel Orozco
"What happens when you don't have a studio is that you have to be confronted with reality all the time."
Gabriel Orozco
"I believe that a small action or a subtle gesture in life can change many, many things."
Gabriel Orozco
"Photography is more than a window for me. Photography is more like a "space" that tries to capture situations."
Gabriel Orozco
"What I'm after is the liquidity of things, how one things leads you on to the rest... The works are about concentration, intention, and paths of thought: the flow of totality in our perception, the fragmentation of the "river of phenomenon."
Gabriel Orozco
"You see what you understand, You have to be prepared to see the world. The moment of clicking the camera is almost irrelevant. What is really important is what happens before and after you take the picture."
Gabriel Orozco
"My photographs are not just about the instant of movement you capture in the camera. It's much more total, about constant movement that became static."
Gabriel Orozco
"I admire the artists that work everyday to attest things for themselves... In the act of transforming the objects of the everyday they transform the passage of time and analyze the economics and politics of the instruments of living."
Gabriel Orozco

"I try always to intimate with the world... with everything I can, to feel love for it, or interest in it. To be intimate you have to open yourself, to be fearless, to trust what is around you, animate and inanimate. Then you start to change the scale of things, of the public and private."

Synopsis

Gabriel Orozco is a contemporary artist who refuses to stay in one place. Preferring to work and live in various cities around the world, Orozco's art reflects his nomadic experience, choosing to make use of found materials and everyday life while rejecting the isolated studio practice. Pushing the limits of the readymade object, Orozco forces viewers to imagine both unseen and overlooked features of the urban and natural environments around them. At the same time, he pushes the limits of traditional artistic media - such as sculpture, painting, and photography - testing the traditional rules and techniques that artists have adhered to throughout previous generations, questioning their relevance for today's rapidly changing social realities.

Key Ideas

Games are some of the most recurring elements in Orozco's diverse body of art work. From the rules and procedures to the active participation of various players, the main aspects of games provide Orozco with myriad opportunities to challenge the notion that art comes from the divine inspiration or intellectual prowess of a single artist. Using the standards of games and the behaviors of game pieces (chess is a particular favorite) as methods for creative production, Orozco lets these rules be as important as his own creative ideas in the making of his art. In turn, viewers are often implicated in these games, recognizing the familiar qualities within an unfamiliar setting and perhaps even playing along in the redefined context.
Working outside of the traditional art studio is an integral feature of Orozco's work. Orozco embraces the surrounding environment: assembling sculptures from found materials in urban settings or photographing the interactions of people, objects, and natural environments. Orozco compels viewers to reconsider the values we place on the objects and spaces around us, as well as our own expectations about what merits the label of art. His nomadic tendencies fuel his curiosity in the stories that surrounding places and things tell, a curiosity he encourages his audience to share by illustrating new ways to see and comprehend both natural and manmade elements in our collective experience.
Orozco's art clearly builds off of earlier experiments with the "readymade" - a real-world object transformed by its placement within a fine art context. Whereas earlier artists like Marcel Duchamp or Jeff Koons made minimal alterations to readymades, Orozco makes more dramatic, visible changes to the objects themselves. Orozco's additions of intricately drawn patterns onto skeletal remains, for instance, question the definitions and boundaries of the readymade object in sculptural works, as components of previously living beings are now the basis for creative experimentation and design.

Most Important Art

Gabriel Orozco Famous Art

Dos Parejas (Two Couples) (C.1990-91)

In this photograph, manmade objects are positioned in two pairs in the foreground, demonstrating the playful quality in Orozco's work when he first experimented with photography. Referring to these pairs of objects as couples, Orozco anthropomorphizes them, leaning them towards one another as if in intimate conversation or contact. Orozco does not hide the materials (wood) and other physical features of these objects, which suggest their use within a construction site or other industrial environment. When confronted with both the title and the image, viewers can at once recognize the inanimate, fabricated essence of the objects in the picture and also imagine more human traits expressed by them too. Viewers are invited to project emotional readings onto the objects, which are usually devoid of such aspects, allowing these photographic subjects to evoke thoughts and feelings without denying their authentic material components.

As curator Ann Temkin suggests, "there is no way to identify a work by Orozco in terms of physical product. Instead it must be discerned through leitmotifs and strategies that constantly recur, but in always mutating forms and configurations." With photography, Orozco used the camera to study his surroundings in a more attentive manner, finding surprising ways to portray commonplace spaces and everyday objects that give them unexpected lives and stories. This investigative strategy carries through much of his early photographs, as does his insistence on the ability of the flat, photographic image to convey an impression of physical weight and volume just as much as a work of sculpture. For Orozco, the photograph is not a document of something else, or a picture of an object, but rather is a complete composition in its own right that can encourage new discoveries and meanings every time it is viewed. Depicting banal items in ways that suggest personal histories or narratives forces the viewer to rethink the documentary role of photography and the lives of ordinary objects at the same time.
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Gabriel Orozco Artworks in Focus:

Biography

Childhood

Orozco had a dynamic childhood where dialogue surrounding art and politics dominated conversations in his household. Born in 1962 in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, to the classical pianist Cristina Felix Romandia and the muralist Mario Orozco Rivera, Gabriel was first exposed to modern art in Mexico through his father's art and his work as a professor of art at the Universidad Veracruzana.

Orozco's father, an active member of the Mexican Communist Party, was known to have experimented in multiple art forms, including poetry and music composition, in addition to painting. In 1964, Rivera became assistant to the prominent muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros and relocated the family to Mexico City, where he worked on various mural commissions and managed the studio of Siqueiros. In Mexico City, Orozco and his sister were influenced by their father's fervent political beliefs, attending ideologically progressive schools and participating in the Young Pioneers, a distinctly communist scouting organization. The young Orozco accompanied his father to many of the sites of these commissions. In fact, as a teenager when he wanted to purchase a car, Orozco worked on several murals with his father in order to earn the money, learning the formal technique of mural painting in the process. By the time Orozco decided to pursue his studies in art, he not only had some formal artistic training, he also had a sophisticated understanding of the progressive role of art in social and political discussions.

Early Training

Orozco attended the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas (ENAP) in Mexico City between 1981 and 1984, where his practice focused primarily on drawings and abstract, geometrical paintings. Frustrated with the traditional (and what Orozco considered to be unnecessary conservative) program at ENAP, and, interested in moving away from the strong Surrealist tendencies in Mexican art, Orozco moved to Madrid, Spain in 1986. There he studied at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, becoming familiar with a wide range of artistic practices and developments of the post-war European and American avant-garde. In contrast to the large studio practices that had become predominant in the 1980s, Orozco's work in Spain rejected the notion of the studio and the traditional medium of painting, focusing on utilizing found materials and remaining unattached to any specific locale. He was fascinated by the atmosphere of cultural awakening taking place in Madrid at the time, noticing in his strolls around town the budding habits and features of a city reentering the global stage after nearly forty years of fascist rule. During his walks between his small apartment and the school, Orozco began a practice of assembling nomadic sculptures with items he found along the way. This manner of making work spontaneously and engaging with random elements from everyday environments would remain central to his practice.

Mature Period

The ephemeral sculptures created by Orozco and the nomadic lifestyle that defined the artist's experience in Spain are fundamental themes of the artist's oeuvre, and it was out of this practice that Orozco's use of photography emerged in the mid-1980s. At first, Orozco used the camera as a tool to record and archive his ephemeral outdoor sculptures. Over time, and echoing artists like Constantin Brancusi and Robert Rauschenberg whose photographs function as both a byproduct and discrete work of art, Orozco began photographing his readymade sculptures on the street and his interactions with various passersby.

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Gabriel Orozco Biography Continues

Returning to Mexico City in 1987, Orozco began meeting with other young art students who were similarly interested in expanding their purviews beyond traditional, nationalistic teachings in Mexico. Orozco took these younger students under his wing, hosting weekly "workshops" where they would discuss current concerns and take time to experiment with different creative impulses. Orozco participated in the Espacios Alternativos (Alternative Spaces) salon in 1987, contributing a large-scale installation that combined wooden beams to form an intricate structure, called Scaffolding for Our Modern Ruins, deliberately referring to the failure of the Mexican government to rebuild the infrastructure and respond to the needs of citizens in the wake of a devastating earthquake that hit Mexico in 1985. The salon was controversial and quickly closed. Lacking significant public recognition and exhibition opportunities, Orozco looked elsewhere to continue his artistic investigations.

In 1991, Orozco left for a brief sojourn in Brazil, where he continued to experiment with photography, documenting the sites he encountered and his own personal interventions in the existing spaces and landscapes. Then in 1992, Orozco went to New York City, where his future wife, Maria Gutierrez, had enrolled at New York University. In the early 1990s while in New York, Orozco emerged as a leading figure in contemporary art, providing a welcomed change from the recent trends in expressionist painting and dramatic economic swings affecting the contemporary art world throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Orozco's art was recognized through several signature shows, including his first solo museum show, an exhibition entitled Projects at The Museum of Modern Art in the fall of 1993, where he displayed works in public areas typically devoid of art. During this period in New York, Orozco also emphasized how an artist should accept his own financial limitations. Rather than working a day job to maintain the costs of a studio, Orozco preferred a different lifestyle, traveling lightly and using the various shapes, patterns, and objects that he confronted in the urban landscape as sources of inspiration. He and Maria Gutierrez married at City Hall in New York City on August 2,1994.

Orozco and his wife's only child, their son Simon, was born on November 26, 2004, in Paris.He currently lives with his wife and son between Mexico City, New York, and Paris.

Current Work

Orozco has continued his itinerant lifestyle and artistic practice in the 2000s, participating in a number of international exhibitions and absorbing into his work many qualities of these international locales and cultures, including Mexico City, Istanbul, London, New York, and more.

In 2004, after years of producing intriguing and often understated sculptures, photographs, installations, and videos, Orozco began a series of paintings, confusing many of his art enthusiasts. He kept this new project completely secret until its unveil at the Serpentine Gallery in London in July of 2004. Addressing the painting series directly, Orozco stated that "I knew they were going to be read as paintings, and I think they are not about painting. They are diagrams. The idea of a diagram has the pretension to explain how things work, how objects behave and how plants grow." As surprising as his return to painting was, Orozco continued to implement many of the same techniques and investigate several of the themes that had characterized his previous work, such as diagrams, blueprints, and procedures, and games that informed both creative and everyday pursuits.

Orozco's approach to painting continued his fascination with several familiar themes and methods: playing with existing shapes and patterns in ways that simultaneously exposed inherent features and questioned customary interactions with them. Orozco has continued indulging his curiosity of the inherited and fabricated environments in which we live.


Legacy

While Orozco's work in the mid to late 2000s has drawn much skepticism, he represents an important bridge between 20th- and 21st-century art movements, spanning Social Realism, Surrealism, abstraction, and Conceptual art. He remains an important and influential international artist, working both in painting and in more performative methods, as seen in a recent show at the Kurimanzutto Gallery in Mexico City, where he transformed the gallery into a functioning Oxxo convenience store.

In truth, and in part due to the artist's intense independence in his practice and refusal to be classified by one label or influence, Orozco's legacy and lasting influence on 21st-century art movements is yet to be defined. Recent exhibitions, including the 2013 exhibition Asterisms at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, demonstrate the artist's continued evaluation of objects as both cultural touchstones and works of art, interrogating their abilities to recall human interactions with natural and fabricated environments, and also his willingness to employ unexpected materials and spaces to confront a range of social, political, and economic forces at work in today's world.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Gabriel Orozco
Interactive chart with Gabriel Orozco's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Abraham Cruzvillegas
David Alfaro SiqueirosDavid Alfaro Siqueiros
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Gordon Matta-ClarkGordon Matta-Clark
Robert SmithsonRobert Smithson

Friends

Damian Ortega
Gabriel Kuri
Abraham Cruzvillegas

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism
Gabriel Orozco
Gabriel Orozco
Years Worked: 1983 - Present

Artists

Damien HirstDamien Hirst
Diana Thater
Brian Jungen

Friends

Damian Ortega
Alberto Kalach
Philippe Picoli

Movements

Post-conceptualism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Kate Beaver

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Kate Beaver
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris
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The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

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