In Focus

Gabriel Orozco: Inner Circles of the Wall

Gabriel Orozco's Inner Circles of the Wall is a record of intense physical action performed in the service of creating a work of art. The artist used nontraditional materials to create what appears to be a traditional art object. For Orozco, it is the idea of sculpture he seems to respectfully sustain as well as subversively revise.

Orozco had masons cut a plaster wall in his Paris gallery into numerous parts. He then drew precise graphite circles that just touch the irregular edges of the pieces, and placed the pieces on the gallery floor and against the walls. Inner Circles of the Wall suggests the here and now of bare matter, as well as the beauty of the infinite realms of a perfect and perfectly logical geometry.

While looking at Orozco's roughly elegant assembly of fissures, slabs, and chips in a careful yet almost precarious composition, a number of contrasting ideas arise: order versus chaos; the imposition of the perfect form of a circle onto irregularly shaped, and, in some cases, ragged objects; the similarity between graphite (an inherently unstable writing material) and plaster (a material that has its own powder-based fragility); and the dissonance (or resolution, depending on one's perspective) that can come about when contemplating that this installation became a work of art only by an act of deliberate yet careful destruction.

Orozco's action challenges our ideas of how a work of art is made, yet it also follows a recent line of thought in the history of art, particularly in the area of sculpture. This is the notion that the work of art, rather than being a solid, defined object, can be literally dispersed throughout the spaces of the museum. No longer pristinely placed on a pedestal or cast in the solid permanence of bronze, sculpture itself in the last few decades has taken on radically new forms that can suggest simultaneously the act of creation as well as the dissolution of matter itself.

Orozco's work imaginatively and forcefully addresses the very nature of and ideas behind the place in which it is exhibited. Coming upon this work in a gallery, one can be forgiven for thinking that this is a section one should not be in, that something is being installed here or has just been dismantled, or that this is a construction site that has yet to be roped off. One then notices the circles in pencil, and realizes that this assembly of plaster forms has in fact been placed here in a purposeful order.

And then, of course, comes the question, what might we really be looking at? Is the gallery decaying here (is this a ruin, albeit a beautiful one), or are these parts of a wall waiting to be built? Are the circles a guide to this reconstruction, or are they of a more mysterious origin and function? Where have these circles been before now? Are they just being revealed to us, or do they represent a system that has its own logic and structure that we can perhaps only subconsciously apprehend? Could the circles represent, in the end, all those systems and structures and forms we will never see but have been told to trust are, in fact, really there? The latter is certainly implied in the work's very title: the circles are inner circles-were they only revealed after the wall was torn apart? One, of course, can't know.

Circles appear over and over in Gabriel Orozco's art, in painting, sculpture, photography, and are part of the artist's use of geometry to provide structure for, but then to sensuously destabilize, visual experience. By means of deceptively mundane objects and materials and through placement and composition, Gabriel Orozco creates situations in which our eye seems to perceive an order before the mind can discern it.

Adapted from

Charles Wylie, Gabriel Orozco: Inner Circles of the Wall, Brochure, 2007.