Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe is a set of forty colour photographs, thirty-nine of which show two bright yellow motorcycles of identical design standing adjacent to each other in various different street scenes, and one of which features three such motorcycles parked by a wall. The pictures have a fixed sequence and although they have been exhibited in various arrangements, they were originally designed for display in a single, horizontal row, with the photograph that features three motorcycles appearing at the end of the sequence. The scenes in the pictures are quite closely cropped, with the motorcycles always standing roughly in the centre with a limited amount of their urban environment visible around them. They are presented broadly in profile and facing to the right in all pictures except the first three, in which they are shown from the front. With the exception of one photograph in which the blurred form of a cyclist is seen riding past, none of the photographs feature people. Aside from the brightly coloured motorcycles, the pictures are dominated by greys, browns and other muted tones.
This work was made by the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco in 1995 in Berlin, while Orozco was living and working there by means of a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Shortly after moving to Berlin earlier that year, Orozco had bought a bright yellow motorcycle produced by the German manufacturer Schwalbe. To make the works in this series, Orozco rode around the city on his motorcycle over a period of approximately three months, stopping whenever he saw another yellow Schwalbe, and then parking his own adjacent to it and photographing both vehicles together. On each occasion he left a note inviting the motorcycle’s owner to attend a gathering outside Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie, which was to be held on the sixth anniversary of the reunification of Germany. Two of the Schwalbe owners joined him at this event and their vehicles are shown with Orozco’s in the final image in the group. All of the pictures in the series are chromogenic prints, and when making them the artist inverted some of the scenes so that any motorcycles that originally faced left pointed to the right. Another edition of this group of photographs exists and is owned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The title Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe highlights the systematic approach that Orozco took in making the work, which is one of many by Orozco that involve subtle actions undertaken in public that are documented through photographs or objects (see, for instance, Crazy Tourist 1991). However, on several occasions, including during an interview in 2006, Orozco has expressed concern regarding the way that these ‘secondary’ documents act as ‘leftovers’, distancing the viewer from the original action (Orozco in Bois 2009, p.160). This concern may explain the emphasis in the title of this work on Orozco’s act of riding around Berlin rather than its photographic documentation. In 2003 he stated that it also accounts for aspects of the work’s presentation:
In arranging the photos in a linear, rhythmic pattern, I wanted the spectators to feel like they were watching a linear sequence of two parallel motorcycles moving together … I wanted to reproduce, somehow, the motorcycle’s movement through the city.
(Quoted in Miguel González Virgen, Of Games, The Infinite and Worlds: The Work of Gabriel Orozco, Dublin 2003, p.6.)
In 1996 the art historian Benjamin Buchloh noted that the motorcycle Orozco chose had been produced in the dissolved German Democratic Republic (or East Germany, which was closely linked to the USSR), suggesting that this work is therefore ‘a reflection on the wasted opportunities of a socialist countermodel ... that had been once at hand’ (Buchloh in Bois 2009, p.45). Orozco also made reference to German reunification by arranging to meet the other Schwalbe owners at the gathering for its sixth anniversary and, as Buchloh argues, he may have intended to reflect on the relationship between the newly conjoined German nations through the recurring image of two adjacent motorcycles (Buchloh in Bois 2009, p.45). Orozco stated in 2001 that ‘My works have a country of origin, and it is important to understand the reason for each object I use in terms of geography and history as well as for its function as a social material’ (Gabriel Orozco, ‘A Lecture’, in Bois 2009, p.96).
Gabriel Orozco, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York 2009, pp.17, 36, 106, reproduced p.107.
Yves-Alain Bois, Gabriel Orozco, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2009, pp.44–5, 160–1, reproduced pp.46–7.
Jessica Morgan, Gabriel Orozco, London 2011, pp.72–3, reproduced pp.74–5.
Supported by Christie’s.