Slight Of Hand

Considering how important and incredible the work is, it's funny how ambivalent the Times' Gabriel Orozco feature sounds.

Ann Temkin did a great show of Orozco's work in Philadelphia, and yet she comes across as a bit flustered discussing the artist's mid-career show at MoMA.

The whole Mexico/Mexican Artist thing is odd, too. Mexico is obviously an important site for Orozco's work, but it's just one of many. And he's been resolute--and successful, I'd say--at not being The Mexican the art world might want him to be. [Wow, has it really been seven years since I criticized Peter Schjeldahl's Mexican stereotyping of Orozco clay pieces at Documenta 11? ]

And the thing about painting? So many of Orozco's classic works--and I'm thinking of things like the currency, the boarding passes and tickets, the sports photos--involve drawing and painting, this idea that painting's somehow anathema to him and his project is baffling.

From the beginning, I've seen Gabriel's work--already I realize I have to turn that thought around. The impact comes not so much from seeing Gabriel's work, as from seeing the rest of the world differently after seeing Gabriel's work.

The slightness of his gestures and perceptions seem like Duchampian hypotheticals, brought into the real, gritty world: how little can an artist do to make something into art? Can this coaster, this yogurt lid, any circle at all, successfully be art? And if the answer is yes, then nearly every other object or situation we encounter every day has that same potential as well.

It's why my favorite work of his in MoMA's collection is a 1992 drawing, or really, work on paper, where he pinched and rubbed a little raised arc at the center.

I'll figure out some grand ending for this piece a bit later. Right now I don't have one, which may suit me fine.

Gabriel Orozco's Whale of a Return to MoMA [nyt]

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: December 13, 2009.

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