The Edinburgh Art Festival's Gabriel Orozco show explores the artist’s fascination with the circle

This article is from 2013

Rounded thinking

Curator Briony Fer discusses Orozco’s radically diverse range of work

There’s something very Zen at the heart of Gabriel Orozco’s work. This is clear from even the title of the Mexican-born artist’s new show at the Fruitmarket Gallery, forming part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival. Comprising a mix of works old and new, including some pieces from the 1990s never shown before, thinking in circles offers a conceptual overview of Orozco’s work and his fascination with the circle as a structure.

‘The idea for the show,’ says the curator, Briony Fer, ‘was to take one work, a painting called The Eye of Go, and look at the artist’s work through the lens of that work. Orozco began at the beginning of the 90s, and made his name as the kind of artist who definitely didn’t make paintings in the conventional sense, yet in 2004 he started making paintings again.

‘His work is characteristically radically diverse; photographs, temporary works, drawings, installations, working tables, and so the show asks what holds this in many ways incompatible range of things together, and what kind of approach to making art makes it coherent in one practice?’

Given that much of the previously unseen work was made in the 1990s, one wonders why Orozco has waited until now to give these works from his own archive an airing.

‘The large-scale acetates are in the show because they tell a new story about how the artist came to make the paintings like 'The Eye of Go',’ says Fer, ‘but also shows him thinking through problems of abstraction and the Mondrian-Duchamp conundrum from the beginning. Orozco even made plans of how to display the acetates, which certainly show him thinking about Duchamp’s 'Large Glass', but never actually did so.

‘In the preparation for this show they were found rolled up in his house, and we decided to exhibit them for the first time. In his notebooks there is a photo of one of these abstract acetates stuck to a brick wall outside on the street, but this is the first time they will have been shown inside a gallery. I hope it has been interesting for him to look back on the work from this time in a different way and reflect on the motif of circles as it runs through everything he does.’

Orozco’s fascination with circles itself seems endless. ‘The show is about the way circles hold the work together and why,’ Fer says. ‘As a motif he isn’t interested in making formal compositions with circles, but with using circles like instruments. Circles throughout the 20th century have off-set the modernist grid and set motion in train, and it’s the movement they create that interests him most, the way they can rotate or spread out.’ thinking in circles does far more than look back, however. ‘Some of his very latest works are in the show,’ Fer says. ‘They are river stones that have been carved with circular patterns by a stone carver, rather like the footballs that he has cut into and drawn on – one of which is also in the show. The stones are a bit like nature’s footballs. There are also some new paintings, so the exhibition comes right up to now.’

Fruitmarket Gallery, 225 2383, 1 Aug–18 Oct, free.

Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles

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Major exhibition of work by the Mexican artist, taking his painting The Eye of Go as a starting point, and featuring a series of large works on acetate which have never before been exhibited. Orozco is concerned not so much with what art should be but why it exists at all, and his practice never stands still – he'll cite…