The MoMA's Mexican Takeover

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Mexican-born artist Gabriel Orozco has always played with the idea of turning nothing into something and making us look at everything in a different way. This Sunday, December 13th, the MoMA opens to the public the first major retrospective of Orozco’s 20-year career. No medium or object is out of reach for Orozco. From chromogenic photo prints to terracotta sculptures to whale bones, he tampers with it all. And this retrospective is a simple and gracious glimpse to the artist’s inner workings.

At the MoMA’s official press preview, we were excited to take a first look into this historical and monumental exhibit for a Latino artist. And its a museum-wide takeover. The show has several large rooms just devoted to Orozco, and a selection of his prints are also on view  on the second floor of the museum. Last but not least,  the massive Mobile Matrix (2006) whale bones sculpture is on display on the second floor as well.

The Mobile Matrix was an idea planned and thought out in commission for the José Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City.  This is the first time the sculpture is leaving its library home, and will not continue to Europe with the rest of the show (Basel, Germany, then Pompidou in Paris and lastly the Tate in London through April 2011. This is your once in a lifetime chance to see it!.

Upon entering the exhibit, don’t be skeptical when you encounter the aptly-named piece Empty Shoe Box (1993). Yes, it is a white (and empty) shoe box, just placed there on the floor. Immediately in the next room,you’ll find Yogurt Caps (1994): four plastic yogurt caps, each  delicately placed in a separate wall of a large empty room. At first, one can shrug this off as a lame overly-conceptual artist, however, consistency and reasoning is how Orozco works. He once said he is “not inventing, just reinterpreting…” and each piece is just that. Not an invention, but rather an item used in everyday living, but placed in a museum space and slightly tweaked; such as La DS (1993) one of his most famous works, also on view. A modified Citroen DS, cut lengthwise, and seamlessly reassembled together. It looks futuristic, obsolete, sleek and distorted at the same.

One of his recent pieces, and probably one of the creepiest (and one of our favorites) is Eyes Under Elephant Foot (2009). The piece shows that Orozco has matured from his terracotta pieces, but is still working conceptually. One of the interesting things about him is even though he is considered as a “Latino” or “Mexican” artist he works and finds influence among other cultures. An incessant traveler (can you believe he does not own a studio!), he is always on the go and stores his work in shoe boxes and appartments.

If you are going to see this show, keep an open mind and make sure you go through the whooole show or else you’re definitely not going to get it. Not in order, not chronologically, just explore the exhibit on your own pace, wander and wonder along. Then, go back to the beginning, to the empty shoebox, and it will make sense: its the blank slate where Orozco, the eternal traveler, keeps all of his ideas, his projects, his stuff, as they become (or are already) art.

This show runs through March 1, 2010.