Hi, I am Jessica Morgan, the curator of the Gabriel Orozco exhibition at Tate Modern that opens on 19 January. Over the next few weeks as I am finishing the preparations, I will be sharing my passion for his work, talking about the great pieces in the exhibition, as well as telling you some stories about Gabriel the artist.
For those who don’t know, Orozco is a Mexican artist born in 1962 who lives between New York, Mexico and Paris. He has been a leading international figure in contemporary art for over a decade now, and Tate’s show will include work from a 20 year period. I first saw Gabriel’s work in the early 1990s when I moved to New York. He had recently moved there too, after spending time studying in Spain, travelling in Brazil and working in his native Mexico City.
The first works by Orozco that I saw were photographs documenting slight alterations and ‘games’ he had been playing in the cityscape, including a piece called ‘Island within an Island’ (see above) which shows a collection of debris piled up to mimic the New York skyline, as well as Crazy Tourist for which Gabriel placed some oranges left over from a market in Brazil on the empty wooden stalls.
I think they are funny, striking and thought provoking works. You will see many of these photographs in our exhibition. Soon after, I encountered his work again at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), where he was showing in the museum’s space for younger artists. In a small act of defiance, he decided to show his work in the ‘non-gallery’ spaces of the museum rather than the designated white cube provided.
One work, called Yielding Stone, was a large ball of Plasticine (the same weight as the artist) which had been rolled through the streets of New York gathering dirt and dust and had come to rest on a landing in the museum like an oversized children’s toy. Most remarkable though, to me at least, were the works outside. In one place there were bright orange dots that you could see in the windows of the apartment building across the street. Orozco had persuaded the tenants to place oranges in their windows, which created an abstract spotty pattern for MoMA’s visitors, or anyone on the street, to enjoy but also wonder about how it came to be. When I saw these works back then, I was struck by their simplicity. This was very refreshing after the fashion for bombastic big painting that had dominated the 1980s. Bringing together many of Gabriel’s works for the Tate Modern exhibition is a fascinating process, but also a personal one for me. His work has always been present in my life as a curator. It is his retrospective, but my life in art. And I want to share my passion for his work with you over the coming weeks in this blog. So please join me, and feel free to comment along the way.