Sunday, July 22, 2012

Orosco as Collector

Gabriel Orosco seems to be an endlessly inventive artist, and his recent commission for the Guggenheim in Berlin is no exception.  The idea is simple enough: collect and ensemble discarded items found on the beach.  The result is fascinating: photographs and arrays of scraps, buoys, light bulbs, wrappers, rocks, and other items washed up on the shore.

It is a comment on collecting.  Here the artist is a curator of debris.  This takes the readymade idea farther, because it incorporates the accidental manipulations of the sea, and also requires careful arrangement on the part of artist and gallerists.  Each individual item gains interest from decay and juxtaposition.  The work also has an ecological dimension.  Like the Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, or Kurt Schwitters before him, Mexican-born Orosco turns trash into art.

Perhaps most interesting to me is the emphasis on classification.  How should these items be arranged?  Orosco aligns items together by type (bulbs with bulbs), but also by shape and color.  The result raises questions about which things for natural units.  Some assemblies are like the Chinese dictionary described in Borges: objects with little in common, like stones, helmets, and lightbulbs seem to take on a natural unity.

A less obvious theme, important to the artist, concerns travel through time and space.  Many items were manufactured in one place (say, China), discarded in another, washed up in a third, then transported to the artist's New York studio, and shipped to the European gallery.   They will ultimately go back to New York, and then perhaps to a storehouse, or, one might fantasize, they might be returned to the sea.