Tate curator Jessica Morgan and artist Gabriel Orozco at Tate Modern
Tate curator Jessica Morgan and artist Gabriel Orozco in the artist's exhibition at Tate Modern

No matter how long you work on an exhibition there is always an element of surprise. On this occasion I was not expecting to experience the co-existence of Orozco’s humour with a reflection on mortality.

Gabriel Orozco Lintels
Poignant remnants - from the washing machine. An installation view of Gabriel Orozco's Lintels.

Both aspects of his work have equal presence in the exhibition: a room with the billiard table and many of his photographs suggests a mood of frivolity and pleasure in the small moments of life, while the installation of Lintels, literally sheets of lint removed from clothes drying machines in New York and hung like washing along lines across the gallery, is a poignant and evocative reminder of the dust and detritus that is life.

Gabriel Orozco Black Kites
Looking death in the eye. Installation of Gabriel Orozco's skull Black Kites with Obituaries in the background.

The room containing Black Kites perhaps summarises this best: the skull on which Orozco laboriously worked in graphite (literally looking death in the eye) is paired with his recent series ‘Obituaries’ for which he gathered headlines from the New York Times obituaries. Taken out of context, the one-liners that summarise a person’s life often make for hilarious reading, such as: ‘Burlesque Star Famous for her Bubblebaths’ or ‘Philosopher, Author, Friend of Popes’, and ‘Sensational Human Cannonball’. Let me know what you think of the show.


Matthew King

A well-curated exhibition which presents Orozco's work in a compelling way. I'm going to return with my daughters (7 & 5) to see what they make of it. I suspect the chequered skull, the squashed citroen and the pendulum billiards will all make an impact!

Chris Hansen

My partner and I always give an exhibition marks out of 10 after seeing it. He gave Orozco 6 out of 10, while I gave it only 3 or 4 out of 10. I can't speak for him, but I felt that Orozco is a bit pretentious in some of the items. The shoebox, for example, is art only because Orozco placed it there. Had I brought a shoebox into the exhibition and slyly dropped it on the floor, it would either have been mistaken for an artwork, or tidied up by the janitor. The disembodied lift was interesting to me until I discovered that Orozco had cut it down to fit his own height.

I am more interested in art that says something not only about the artist, but also about the viewer and about me in particular. I didn't get that feeling from most of the items in the exhibition.

Oh, and the dryer lint? When looking at it my only thought was "I hope it's been sterilised."


My schoolfriend and I loved the exhibition. Our spirits were lifted and we found Orozco's craft and perceptions gifted and refreshing. We enjoyed the whacky element, India's loo rolls being put to artistic display; spitting toothpaste prompting exquisite graphic design. Kept being surprised at his viewpoint. Excellent and all the better for not being crowded. Took my 13-year-old granddaughter as I had found it so fresh, absorbing with extraordinary unexpected perceptions. Super.

jeffery simpson

This is the first time I have seen "La DS" in the round and I was to some extent relieved to find that it is not "perfect" inasmuch as some of the joins have not been blended in as perfectly as the bonnet and roof panels, in other words it is not like a Jeff Koons. However overall I found Orozco much less stimulating than recent shows by Francis Alys and Roni Horn. Orozco also seems to have less of a "purpose" than the other 3 artists I mentioned, by that I mean I cannot "pigeon-hole" him in a few words, nor indeed can many of the bloggers that precede me here. Just being quirky and playful is not really enough in my opinion. However, even if only to see La DS it was worth spending some time, it would be ridiculous for me to expect that every exhibition at Tate Modern was better than the previous one!

Melita Dennett

I went as a Tate member with a couple of hours to spare before an appointment; no preconceptions, no prior knowledge of his work. I found it very engaging, it made me smile and some of the obituary headlines made me laugh out loud - lives reduced to a one-liner. Aesthetically I loved the line of the Citroen as a sleek but non-functional object.

Dennis Douglas

I was enchanted by the human scale of Orozco's work, its variety of media and its sense of common humanity. The Go item seemed to be absent and I would like to have seen it but the knights' chess board and the related pieces were a sheer delight. I loved the obits display for the humility it conferred on people's life goals and achievements and the tongue-in-cheek antropomorphising thrust of the Schwalbe photos made them read like a commentary on more popular anthropomorphising art forms. Dare we mention Walt Disney? One of the curators handed a billiards cue to a girl studying the carambole table while I was there and the girl managed to look at the same time delighted and shocked. It was fun but there is also an important purpose in reminding people that our sense of identity and self-respect are influenced by and reflected in the scale and pretensions of our surroundings, both their designed elements and their un-designed elements.

Paul Bradley

Lovely exhibition, Orozco captures the human condition through unpretentious, vivid and above all funny images. The yellow scooter becomes a flashy character with a lot of mates. What child hasn't wondered at plasticine losing all colour and becoming a grey mass. Childlike, he rolls the large ball which acquires experience and impressions ! and sits like a visual biography. You can't but try to make up rules for the carambola table, so again fun but you question your impulse. Inspiring and rich.

Brian Conway-Smith

The show made me smile. It's intelligent, witty and constantly surprising. The folded paper pieces at the entrance were beautiful. On a grey February day it was a delight.

Clare McGrath

Loved it...really suited me yesterday. I think he is an amazing artist, who makes us appreciate the "everyday"...the pool on the rooftop, a dog sleeping, the beauty of the human skull. He simply applies his fingerprint...no fuss, not over-developed. A beautiful portrait of life in cities.

Dan Wrightson

I enjoyed it. It was a very quick trip - I had just enough time to wander through the whole thing and found it engaging and refreshing. Some things I liked more than others, but that's a given. The enjoyment for me is engaging with his enquiry, the participation in his own sense of fun and curiosity. Thanks Tate - this is what I pay my membership for. PS. The Watercolour exhibition is also fantastic!

Deirdre Stirling

Shallow, pretentious rubbish. No originality at all.

Claudine Fear

I enjoyed this exhibition greatly. His work is considered and carried out with skill and artistry. I came away enriched and, in spite of the sometimes solitary and lonely feelings evoked, especially by the photographs, I did not have any sadness. The works were on the whole beautiful and painstakingly produced, thought provoking and, as in the Mexican culture inspired by death but, humorous.

robin wood

Enjoyed the exhibition especially the Citroen - my Dad had one in the 1950's. Thought that the shoe box was naff though - I have several lying around in my bedroom. Thought the yellow scooters were fun, but disappointed that the Carambola was inoperative the day I visited.

Glyn Davies

Thought that the car was fantastic, and loved the idea of the scooter photos.

The lift was interesting, but also slightly confusing! It was dated as being created in 1994. Yet the certificate of safety inside the lift is dated 1996. Is it a time machine in disguise? ;)

Additionally the horses for courses gave some amusment, and the fan with the toilet rolls gave me a chuckle!

Paul Metcalfe

I enjoyed the show, and thought it was accessible to all ages of visitors. There seemed to be more children than usual for an exhibition - or am I imagining that? I liked the DS, but would have liked to see it next to an immaculate original. The Schwalbe series was an interesting idea, but I would like to know if there was a reason for all the photos being presented with the machine's rears on the left of the views, as several of the photos were clearly reversed, if you looked at the number plates. Was this some form of artistic statement?

Don Urquhart

Orozco's stuff is not going to change the world, but it is fun. Like so many of Tate Modern's exhibitions, one's first reaction is to think it pointless and then you gradually realise that it's made you think or given you a unique experience. His thin Citroen and circular billiard table are obvious examples. I don't know if he is deeply revolutionary or inflamed against conformity but he goes out of his way to do things differently. He's not the only one, but he stands out for his extravert and unpretentious style. Is he too flashy and obvious? Well, not to the simple-minded like me.

anna campion

Much better than I expected,I didn't know Gabriel Orozco's work apart from the grid chequered skull, I'd seen John Stezaker's work two weeks before and both of them play a lot with associations and double readings which I feel jolts the work into many more spatial and emotional-almost spiritual interpretations of the occasion, that extra mental twist, Gabriel's photographs should all be owned by me. I'll send you my address at the end of the show.

Peter Cocks

This is a beautifully curated show but one, in my view that lacks any real impact or resonance. Most aspects of the artists work have been done better and long ago by Duchamp and Joseph Beuys...the shoe box, the bicycles, the rubber tyres, the hanging lint... with far greater impact and a clearer sense of meaning. The Citroen and the skull are flashy, expensive Hirst- like attention grabbers but again, thin. The yellow scooter photographs smacked of a gap year student's photographic facebook joke.

The whole show felt to me like a pastiche of what a 'modern art' show should be in 2011. I am trained as an art historion, so not totally ignorant, but as I walked around, I could imagine making a contemporary, Nathan Barleyesque remake of "The Rebel" around this show. In the words of Irene Handl, Tony Hancock's landlady in that film: "Pruerile, miskellaneous rubbish."


I loved this exhibition - and the main pleasure I got from it was that his work sparks a recognition - you think "oh yes, that's what it's like". I love the way he sees everyday objects. The Obit series and dial tone were fascinating - you could spend time just wondering what lives lie behind the obit statements and the phone numbers - but my favourites were the photographs - I really love the way Orozco sees the world at each of the moments of capture.


I'm still not entirely sure where I stand when it comes to artwork and exhibitions that require an explanation. Many would argue that a piece should speak for itself, but thank god for the printed guide this time around! If I hadn't referred to it as I made my way around, I would never had 'got' half of what Orozco was saying. Take for example, the photos of yellow scooters that wrap around the main space. As standalone pictures they're very nice, a very decorative series, but as soon as you find out that Orozco scoured the city in search of matching scooters to photograph with his, it all clicks!

As soon as I tuned into his ideas, his concepts, more than the resulting work, I absolutely fell in love with it. The obituaries and the scooters were a personal favourite.


Orozco's work is 'knowingly' slight. He generally gets away with it but in this show his work is crushed by the oppressive space and an insensitive hang. His playfulness is reduced to cuteness & his lightness of touch looks like shallowness. Some of the work is astonishingly bad - the billiard table is embarrasing. Some of it is like good undergraduate work. The work that has a beauty & a sensibility particular to the artist (some of the photography & the 'heart') struggle in the dingy spaces.


BTW the real 'joke' about the shoe box is that you are meant to be able to kick it about but in the Tate it is deemed as too precious (it's still just a shoe box).

Sarah McDonald

I enjoyed the exhibit. I found his work playful and visually clever.

Gareth Gerner

I popped in after work with my wife on Friday to have a quick look around. Wow, excellent art, ideas, concepts and exhibition! We will definitely be going again.

Also my wife will be taking my daughter along today, as her OCR GCSE exam paper is entitled "Similar but different" - this exhibition is perfect for ideas. Well done Tate!

Jo S

Your last sentence sums up your comment well

Jo S

Loved it: funny; playfully absurd, touching and humane. I left the show wanting more but great to see a show not too big to be overwhelming. Definitely one of the most enjoyable exhibitions I've been to at The Tate.

Really gratifying to see see an artist combining humour with such a light take on identity and what we leave behind as we meander along on our way. Great to see such a range of work both heavy and ephemeral.

I had a great time inventing the pool game and laughed at the 'meetings' of the yellow bike. And those bodily imprint sculptures were really moving.

All good...

Iain Jarvis

I love this guy! My second visit to this exhibition - I especially love the Yellow Schwabe photos and the skull, and "My heart is in my hands" and... most really...

sue watts

a well written and thorough exposition of the pointlessness of the orzoco exhibition other than as a self-indulgent display of mediocre ideas.

Han Zhou

Generally I had a strange feeling mixing confusion, praise & disappointment.

Some exhibits, like the chess board was truly great: eye-catching as well as meaningful; provoking, but not over the top. Some, like the skull n photo series of the yellow scooter, were interesting at first glance. Yet then made thought, what's special about it? Anything new? Things like these, to me, are just some other confused& desperate contemporary art creatures.

The smell of burnt rubber was the best! Such intimacy, intertwined with destruction& a sense of danger, was awe-provoking.

Don Collishaw

This was an exhibition where being a friend of the Tate paid off. I went with an open mind and little pre-knowledge. Yes there were some images that added little to the sum total of human knowledge but some that were thought provoking and others that were extremely beautiful. Well worth the visit.

nick wood

I loved it. Fun. Peceptive. I especially liked the photographs, the scooters, the cats and melons. Not so sure about the washing lines full of fluff or the strips of tyre - Beuys?- that had to be brought over from Mexico. The clenched hands heart photo was suprisingly moving.

franko b

i love gabriel orozco work since i come a cross his work at the ICA here in london maybe about 10 years a go or so. i like the work especialy the dust pieces and the instalazion with the tyers , i feel tthe there are some memory for me of beuys, wich i find pleasent. over all im glad i seen it franko b

Alan MacDonald

Before we popped in yesterday, I hadn't read anything about the artist or his work. I had my three year old twins with me so was only paying a fleeting visit, with no time to immerse myself in anything. On first glance, there were several items that were intriguing and fun. The twins liked the car and the pool table! But I was suddenly and unexpectedly, very moved by the obituaries work. A very simple concept but it really knocked me sideways. I'm very glad we made the time for our visit.


A very refreshing experience. Like many visitors, I had very limited prior knowledge of the artist's work, but found myself developing substantial personal debate as I attempted to analyze and make sense of some of the work displayed. A truly engaging and thought provoking exhibition.




An interesting exhibition, but I do not think the Tate made the best of it. I visited on a grey London day and the whole exhibition felt a little grey. The galleries are very bland to allow a variety of work to be shown. However, unlike some other Spanish artists, Orosco's work is also quite monotone and needs good lighting to make it sing. "Looking Death in the Eye" was particularly difficult to see, being in a perspex case. A little thought from the lighting technicians could really have "lifted" this exhibition.

Sarah Gellner

Enjoyed this show. Reminded me of my own years in Mexico - especially the split tyres scattered across the floorboards. Also the photos of yellow mopeds in Berlin, a city I also know well. Which may be missing the point, I don't know, not really being a modern art buff.

Marcus Daly

Didn't like it at all. Thought it was rubbish. didn't evoke anything but boredom and curiosity into why this is appreciated by anyone? It added to the masses cries that modern art is a cash cow!!

Nicola Scott

One of the best things about being a Tate Member is I make more of an effort to go to exhibitions I might not usually think of going to.Gabriel Orozco would probably be one of those...but I'm glad I went and as usual was pleasantly surprised.Really liked the series of photos of his Schwalbe scooter "mated" with others.The Obituaries was another highlight,interesting to try & think who they were written for.The Citroen,the lift & the pool table were very clever ideas.Worth the visit.

Neville Godwin

Sadly I only had an hour to view the show between meetings and there was a fire alarm which took half that time. Eclectic and hit and miss were my overriding thoughts.

I liked the washing machine fluff on the clothes lines but found the first rooms paintings made by folding paper/card crude. The idea behind the motorbikes was fun but poorly shot... I liked the grave stone inscription banners but found the billiard table sub Duchamp..

As I said very hit and miss...


Dear Lawrence, Sorry not "rooks" but knights on the chess board. I am an artist and have a BA (Hons) Fine ART, and I have been immersed in these areas of practice for several decades. I particularly enjoy the playful in art, or indeed in life, which we can all take far too seriously. I was there yesterday with a friend who works with children with learning difficulties and is open to new ideas. Though not very knowledgeable about contemporary art she found much to enjoy and to inspire her, especially for work that she could make with the children. The fact that some of it was quite simply made using fugitive materials she particularly appreciated. ie His ability to to transform the mundane. We both enjoyed the obituary headlines, which we felt had many cross-levels of meaning and whilst being about the ultimate serious subject, death, became increasingly hilarious. Both of us, though in our 60s, managed to go to the toilet (oops bathroom) several times during the day without hooking up our skirts. Luckily we are intelligent women who have reached an age where we are able to notice such things. Personally I have never suffered from that "aversion", nor the "spinach on the teeth", having been shown how to dress myself and clean my teeth at an early age ! The "snail tongs" scenario, well I felt you were being rather ridiculous there, perhaps a little OTT ! I'm not sure quite what a holding "Daily Mail views" about art would amount to, it is such a fear-filled right wing newspaper and one I hold responsible for more that is wrong with the UK in 2011 than all the contemporary fine artists work put together. This is the privilege of living in a democracy, we are free to hold and express diverse views and to find joy in that diversity. You obviously love to write, are knowledgeable about art and would seem to have time on your hands, perhaps you should start an art blog, I'm sure you would engage many people in such a forum. After all no one needs to feel ignorant about art, or intimidated in Tate Modern or any other art gallery, or middle class dining room. We live in a time of free and extensive access to art information and it is not held in academies where only the chosen few can access it. I hope you find some art to enjoy in 2011, there's plenty of it about. All good wishes in your treasure hunt.

Tag Bogo

I was looking forward to this for a while.It made especial a wet dull Feb Day.This was a powerful and completely realized emotional and intellectual experience.Serious,irreverent,thought provoking,Funny and Joyous"Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe" is a fave but everything in this exhibition works.It enthused my day,later i visited The National Gallery where i saw some old faves Canalletto's,Stubbs,Goya's,Seurat's,Constables,and Joseph Wright of Derby's amongst others.The genius of these Artists got me thinking,and i think Gabriel Orozco belongs in this company.His Art represent the age,and adds to it.An astounding Artist and Exhibition


Great meons and cat photo, and photos in general. Also liked the car and some of the circular gold, red blue ones. Found some things a little pointless - didn't Duchamp do the shoe box thing, only his urinal was a more attractive object? Still, definitely worth a look.

Mark Pulsford

This art is not serious enough, not powerful enough, not demanding enough, not emotionally affecting enough, not eloquent enough, not witty enough, not scrupulous enough (not uncompromising enough) to be remembered for very long. Nostalgia, self absorption, ahistorical referentialism, the imperial clothing not new (certainly not delusional) but safe -- a twenty-first century orthodoxy become as stale as any other elderly idea. Conceptual art has become a tradition, perhaps akin to the freak shows and sensation mongers of the travelling fair, in expectation as titillating and as likely to disappoint.

We want to believe that the artist has been his or her own sternest critic, and that what we are allowed to see is practice distilled and purified, irresistible and rare. Too often we have to peer among the dross to find our moments to treasure. I really liked the little folded monoprints, saw them first and imagined I was in for more of a treat than it turned out.

Mine Zabci

Hello, I can;t say It was WOW for me either I found something very unusual. but I know he does his Art in BEYOND,I have seen his painting or similar in white cube a couple of years ago. His photography works were cute in same object motorbike but in different images..I quite like to find differences like puzzle.. 3. Floor is my favorite when I am in London always I visit 3.floor..One day I want to see my works are hanging or standing in TATE walls x I love Tate Modern..Thanks

Damian Griffiths

On first entering the gallery I had a feeling this is the kind of art I don't get. It's all about ideas, as far as I can see, but the ideas aren't really that good, or original. I looked round the room of pictures of yellow mopeds and I suppose I enjoyed that the most. They were quite nicely taken pictures, and it was as if Orozco's yellow moped is on an adventure meeting others in Berlin. It's an odd scenario, almost like a children's story, and I quite liked the quirkiness of it.

However, I can't see how the chess board or the pool table are anything other than gimicky. It's the kind of thing that looks quite cool at first, but then you realise there's no point to it, and someone has tagged on a meaning which is that it's about "mortality". Yeah, because "mortality" - that's so profound! And I need artists to remind me of that by putting any old random thing on display so it's pointlessness reminds me of "mortality".

The more pointless a piece of art is, in fact, the more it reminds me of mortality. Art galleries are quite pointless places, in a way, and nothing brings that home more than walking into one which is full of rubber tyres. I stand there and stare, and think "basically, I'm going to die, and whatever I do to fill my time, it isn't at all clear that there is ever going to be any point to it, although this is really rubbing my face in the fact!" Having said that, even Damian Hirst has never yet managed to truly recreate the feeling of waiting to get a haircut, or even waiting in the queue for the checkout at Tesco or those other profound experiences we have every day.

Another gripe I have is the use of the word "explore". There's one room where Orozco is "exploring" the relationship of the geometrical and the organic. I could see there was some skill in the art. I think Orozco does appear to have some skill. I couldn't do what he is doing. But is he really "exploring" anything? When was the last time that an artist who explored things in their art ever found anything?

However, unlike some people I wouldn't quibble with the use of the word "playful" here. When I entered the room which had a chessboard, a pool table, and pool cues in the corner, so people visiting the gallery could actually play a version of pool where the red ball was susupended on a rope, I was not inspired to ask myself if Orozco was being playful. Not only had he filled the room with objects designed for play, but he had been playful with those objects themselves. Here, then it seems we are viewing an art that raises no questions, and deals with certainties. Is the artist being playful? YES!

On the other hand, perhaps if one takes a form of playfulness, and is playful with it, producing a game that noone wants to play, and which is therefore completely pointless, one ends up being reminded of mortality.

Or maybe Orozco is exploring the relationship between playfulness and mortality.

Massimo Malavasi

Orozco epitomises our era. He's at once challenging, playful, funny, light, dark, bizarre, insightful and frustrating. He likes to play around with physical materials and represent them to us. It certainly had the effect of making me look at things freshly...a small awakening. Highlights for me: obituary extracts, the Citroen car and the skull. Some of it felt too cerebral and disconnected from the heart. A little lost and 'what's the point' subtext... But then one could say I was talking about me and not his art...or a comment on our times too.

Victoria Hind

I think this was an interesting and engaging exhibition, I liked the way he used such varying media and that he wasn't too serious about himself. Some of the things were beautifully made, like the scroll of numbers and his drawings were often delicate. I really liked the clay heart, the photograph is very strong as an image. I liked his view of the world through photographs which I thought were amusing, well seen and at times also thought provoking.

I feel that contrary to many contemporary artists it was easy to engage with his ideas which seems to be an important aspect of viewing work today, it did not have the facile, intention to shock, approach which has become rather overused and tired.

Altogether a very enjoyable show, thank you Tate Modern

John Roots

As a general comment, one of my reasons for being a member is that I can see displays of modern art, presented in a way which will help me to understand a little better what today's artists are doing.

So, as usual for me, there was some work which I wanted to look at more closely and other pieces that I didn't want to spend much time on. But I guess most people who go to galleries regularly have much the same experience.

For example: I enjoyed the Samurai Tree pieces - I felt they were beautiful as decorative art. The First Was The Spitting group I also felt were delicate and the internal organisation of each piece was beautifully precise. Among the photographs, I thought Extensions of Reflection was a highly original way of ... well, extending a reflection. Breath On Piano too was delightful.

So I suppose I am saying that his decorative and more accessible pieces gave me a lot of pleasure.

However, most did not: I saw little point in a room full of tyres. Until I read the commentary, I would never have guessed that Lintels was ".. a meditation .. on the precariousnes of human life." When I saw the first few in the series Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe" I thought that they were just some rather gloomy photos recording a trip through empty city streets, but I lost interest when I saw they were really about.

But do please put on more exhibitions of modern art, they make me at least think a bit more about why I enjoy looking at some but not others.


@Lawrence Owens - 10/10.