Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles (4 stars)

This article is from 2013

Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles

Not a show of results but rather of exercise the Fruitmarker gallery offers a glimpse into the mind of one of the most significant artists working today

Unlike that of the equally dot-obsessed Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama, this career-encompassing display of Orozco's circle-based fascination veers far away from pop art and firmly into the pedantic, discursive and other unattractive terms. Not a display of candy-coated colour but rather a decades-long meditative study on form (or on a particular 'instrument', as Orozco calls the circle) executed mainly in black and white, thinking in circles at first glance is an almost-boring experience that can be digested in one quick sweep of the gallery. 'Yep,' you might say to yourself, 'there sure are a lot of circles in here'.

But as curator Briony Fer lays out in her exhibition essay, this is not a show of results but rather of exercise, process and study. The exhibition takes as its starting point a single painting – The Eye of Go (2005) – which is sandwiched between sketches and works Orozco made in the years leading up to its creation and those he completed after Fer's idea for this exhibition had already been floated.

What confronts the viewer in Fruitmarket's two gallery spaces is not Orozco's most interesting or arresting works but rather a glimpse into the mind of one of the most significant artists working today.

For anyone who has ever looked at a canvas painted with a few smears of paint and thought 'My kids could do that', here is the evidence of why they could not. Notebook pages, canvases, drawing paper and acetates covered in circles are displayed alongside everyday items like newspapers, envelopes, ticket stubs and even leaves that were also unable to escape Orozco's brush, pen or knife. The painting Eye of Go is nothing but a few dozen black circles arranged in an asymmetrical pattern on a white ground – but it is also all of the pages, canvases, envelopes and ticket stubs that surround it, physically and conceptually.

If in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the answer to everything is the number 42, for Orozco it's quite obviously the circle. While the artist's trademark poignancy may be missing from thinking in circles (although caught in glimpses in hand-smeared paintings, erased lines, weathered footballs and moody photographs), what is on offer here is the foundations of all that. It invites us to observe Orozco's lifelong obsession and walk away dizzy from the overwhelming intensity of it all – despite the fact its in black and white and not dayglo.

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

Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles

  • 4 stars

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…