Gabriel Orozco - Latin America New York Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Collection of the Artist
    Kurimanzutto, Mexico City
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Sudden illumination is possible, but you have to know how to pay attention to it and separate it from everything else, because it passes by in an instant. Some works require it, others don’t… but an artist has to find his or her own scale. A special effect isn’t all that matters. The littlest things in life can be charged with meaning.” Gabriel Orozco

    The grand scope of Gabriel Orozco’s oeuvre has established him as one of the world’s leading interpreters of reality. His immensely varied body of work seeks to reassess and ultimately reform our consciousness of what is present in the human universe. With a sense of inquisitive playfulness, Orozco reshapes and resizes the visual iconography of our everyday lives, seeking to radicalize our physical experience of it. Employing a wide array of media—from found objects to photography, clay and canvas—Orozco always draws attention to the material inhabitants of our world, shedding new light on the relationship between our physical and intellectual engagements with reality.

    The son of a mural painter and art professor, Gabriel Orozco grew up overhearing scholarly conversations on art and its varied manifestations. After receiving a conventional artistic education in Mexico in the mid-eighties, Orozco relocated to Madrid for one year, where he developed an affinity for the non-traditional formats and materials of leading post-war artists. Never confined to any specific school of academic thought, his experimentation with a wide range of media soon became characteristic of his work, which involves painting, photography, sculpture, and readymades.

    The present lot, Secuencia de tréboles (Sequence of Clovers) has its conceptual origins in Orozco’s fascination with the complexities of nature and our tangible reality. The geometric form of the circle is commonly associated with the natural world, referencing the cycle of life as well as the atomic particles that makeup our bodies and surroundings. The circle comes up constantly in Orozco’s oeuvre, signifying his passion for the study of organic motifs and the creative potential of human consciousness.

    The concept harkens back to Orozco’s seminal work Horses Running Endlessly (1995), in which the artist created an oversized chessboard with 256 squares. The only pieces in Orozco’s version of chess are knights. The knight is a distinctive piece within the game, since it can move both vertically and horizontally in a single turn, with the unique power to create circular patterns on the checkered board. These circular movements are not represented graphically on the board, yet they can be clearly inferred from the rules of the game. In Horses Running Endlessly, Orozco’s knights are not directed anywhere—they are wandering aimlessly within the board in a spherical dance, challenging scientific theories of infinity and embodying Orozco’s interest in how spatial possibilities are generated.

    Orozco’s subsequent Samurai Tree series of paintings is conceptually linked to Horses Running Endlessly, demonstrating Orozco’s insurmountable ability to examine his intellectual preoccupations through wildly different aesthetic approaches. In his Samurai Tree paintings, first exhibited at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2004, Orozco again incorporates the knight’s movement in chess, this time representing it through intricate configurations of circles painted on canvas. Using computer software to develop the patterns, Orozco begins each Samurai Tree from a single point, which he considers a center of gravity. Depending on the starting point and the artist’s intention, each painting results in a different arrangement of circles and lines. Having established this graphic pattern, Orozco colors in the halves and quadrants of each circle based on the chess knight’s possible moves, only using red, white, blue, and gold.

    The present lot, Sequence of Clovers, and its sister work, The Eye of Go—both created in 2005—are Orozco’s responses to his celebrated Samurai Tree series, offering important extrapolations of a similar conceptual approach. In these black and white compositions, Orozco incorporates yet another popular game into his method—the ancient Chinese game of go. Go, which happens to spell out the artist’s initials, is played on a gridded board with circular black and white stones. Rich in strategy and almost devoid of rules, the object of go is to use one’s stones to occupy a larger total area of the board. Players capture opponents’ stones by surrounding them with their own pieces—a circular motion reminiscent of the chess knight's. The game of go has no set ending conditions—it can continue until a player resigns or when neither player wants to make another move. This conflagration of intention and chance is of particular interest to Orozco, since both are forces that ultimately determine our subjective experience of life.

    Visually, Sequence of Clovers plays with ideas of suspension, gravity, and rotation. The composition draws us in as we try to discern a pattern or rhythm among the black interacting spheres. Orozco is successful in using the circle to trigger action, rather than as a purely compositional device. Simultaneously, through his reinterpretations of both chess and go, Orozco removes the systematic elements from the games and allows his viewers to determine their own rules, thereby imbuing a crucial interactive component into his canvases.

    Although aesthetically reminiscent of abstraction, Orozco’s paintings are complex mental exercises that explore how organic forms develop and function, and how human beings are free to interact with them on our own accord. The reality of the physical world is never far from Orozco’s creative focus. When explaining the concept behind the Samurai Tree series, Orozco stated, “I knew they were going to be read as paintings, and I think they are not about painting. They are diagrams. The idea of a diagram has the pretension to explain how things work, how objects behave and how plants grow.”

    The purpose of a diagram is not representational—it is an interpretation of how something functions. While these works on canvas may be technically classified as paintings, they challenge the traditional art historical definition of painting as an illusory window into the world. Orozco uses canvases like sculptors use pedestals or tabletops. His canvases are not supports as much as they are containers, holders of active elements that interact among themselves and with the reality around them. What may have seemed like a “return to painting” in 2004 was actually a groundbreaking approach to one of the most traditional of artistic mediums. In Sequence of Clovers, Orozco does away with a conventional painterly way of thinking. Instead, he develops a model through which to study the infinite permutations of nature—involving organic elements, human action, and chance—and our ways of thinking about them.

  • Artist Biography

    Gabriel Orozco

    Mexican • 1954

    Gabriel Orozco's diverse practice, which includes sculpture, photography, painting and video, is centered on the rejection of the concept of a traditional studio. Alternatively, Orozco's conceptual process involves using quotidian objects as commentary on urban society. In the widely exhibited La DS (1993), Orozco cut a Citroën DS car into thirds, eliminating the central section and reconfiguring the remaining parts.

    Another important motif in Orozco's lexicon is that of the colored ellipses. In his seminal series, Samurai Tree Invariants, the artist employs fragmented colored circles as the basis for geometric compositions, exploring the movements made by a knight on a chessboard. These not only represent Orozco's conceptual practices but illustrate his interest in both the geometric and organic world.

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Secuencia de tréboles (Clover Sequence)

acrylic on canvas
47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. (120 x 120 cm.)
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$350,000 - 550,000 

Sold for $425,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 29 May 2014 4pm