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Back to Reviews 96

Yielding Stone 
(Piedra que cede), 1992

Ascention, 1996

Making Strides, 1996

Jump Over, 1996

Oval Billiard 
Table, 1996

Untitled, 1994

gabriel orozco

at marian goodman

by Mia Fineman

Four years ago the peripatetic Mexican 

artist Gabriel Orozco could be seen rolling 

a large ball of sticky gray plasticine 

through the streets of downtown Manhattan. 

The soft surface of Orozco's Yielding Stone 

(exhibited at the New Museum's 1992 

"In Transit" show) picked up and preserved

traces of whatever it came into contact with--

sewer gratings, fingerprints, dirt and debris 

from the street. The sculpture, which 

weighed as much as Orozco himself, was an 

idiosyncratic although strangely 

appropriate self-representation of an 

artist who for the last ten years has 

invested ephemeral, everyday materials--

usually found on-site--with a gracefully 

understated poetic intensity. 

In his latest show at Marian Goodman, 

Orozco turns his quizzical gaze on the 

venerable British institutions of sports 

and club games, obliquely addressing the 

pendulous poise of bodies in motion. In the 

north gallery there's a recent series of large

computer-generated color prints of sports photos 

clipped from the British daily press, blown 

up and overlaid with abstract figures of 

cleanly bisected circles and ovals. Each of 

the pictures captures the male body in a 

state of suspended animation, frozen by the 

camera's eye somewhere between cramped 

exertion and animal grace. Orozco's graphic 

interventions serve to emphasize what's 

already there in the photographs--the 

staccato rhythm of a crew race, the poised 

intensity of a cricket player winding up 

for a throw, the oversaturated colors of 

dyed newsprint. The most dramatic shot in 

the series shows a soccer player suspended 

diagonally in mid-air like a human missile. 

The overlaid circles and ovals echo the 

photo's elementary colorscheme--the white 

of the ball, the green of the playing 

field, the red of a Coca-Cola banner in the 

background--while the original caption 

glosses the image in the cryptic language 

of sports journalism: "Blindside run: Les 

Ferdinand fails to connect with his head 

but Darren Anderton ghosts in to open the 

scoring for England." 

The games continue in the south gallery, 

which houses the centerpiece of the show: a 

life-sized, strangely modified billiard 

table. The table is elliptical, it has no 

pockets, and a single red ball is suspended 

from the ceiling over its center, not quite 

touching the pristine green baize. The rules 

of this made-up game are deliberately 

open-ended and visitors are encouraged to 

play; a wood rack with cue sticks and chalk is 

conveniently placed nearby. While the first 

shot is easy enough, once the suspended 

ball begins swinging in long graceful arcs 

over the table the physics of the game 

become increasingly bewildering. There's 

something vaguely Newtonian about the 

piece, like an astronomical model launched 

into orbit.

The surrounding walls are covered with 

small-scale drawings and collages 

incorporating subtly manipulated found 

objects that recall the salvaged and 

recycled materials of 1970s Arte Povera. 

Orozco traces circles like floating soap 

bubbles on the pages of a bathroom-supply 

catalogue, he meticulously pencils a grid 

on a crumpled paper napkin, he spits out a 

foamy blob of toothpaste on a cardboard 

toothpaste box, he fills in all the zeros 

on a cash-register receipt with a blue 

ball-point pen. Without proclaiming any 

explicit agenda, these quietly beautiful 

works offer themselves as ephemeral 

documents of a profoundly personal 

encounter with the everyday. 

The large Cibachromes on display in the 

print room are conceived in a similar vein; 

Orozco has said that he uses photography as 

"a way to document facts, an index of 

private works which have vanished." These 

transitory private works include a flock of 

sheep grazing in a lush green meadow strewn 

with car tires, a cluster of inverted blue 

rubber thongs arranged in the sand, several 

small yellow balls nestled in a dangling 

bunch of green bananas. What carries these 

photographs above and beyond the anecdotal 

register of personal documents, however, is 

Orozco's unfailing eye for the exquisite 

interplay of color and form.

Gabriel Orozco at Marian Goodman, 24 West 

57th Street, NYC, NY 10019, Sept. 10-Oct. 

12, 1996.

MIA FINEMAN is a New York writer.