Discovering Detritus: Gabriel Orozco and Secondhand Treasure

Article by Anna C. Purcell in Berlin; Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“An object’s shape is made from accidental encounters with other objects– that process has been important for me.”– Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco’s new show, Asterisms, opened on July 6th at the Deutsche Guggenheim. Using detritus collected from a variety of locations, the Mexican-born artist creates a two-fold sculptural and photographic installation, capturing the stories and histories of objects, while also faciliating conversations about the nature of place, the industrialization of the Western world, and the engagement of people with both urban and rural wastelands.

In a portion of the exhibition entitled Sandstars, Orozco explores the unique environment of Isla Arena, Mexico. The area, a wildlife reserve, is also a whale mating ground, a whale cemetary, and lastly, a depository for Pacific Ocean currents to drop large quantities of waste from various other parts of the world. He tells the narrative of this distinct place through the set of tangible materials collected there, giving viewers a clear feeling of being present in the exhibition, while also simultaneously being transported elsewhere.

His findings in Isla Arena are photographed, but perhaps more stunningly, preserved and arranged taxonomically in the actual exhibition. The nearly 1,200 objects manifest their diversity in both size and color as viewers are exposed to everything from tree trunks to shards of sea glass. The organization of the sculpture allows for the viewers to see the grandeur and broadness of the project’s scale, finding much between the smallest and largest objects.

On the opposite coast of North America, Orozco also found beauty in the collection of regional detritus. In his collection Astroturf Constellation, he explores the debris left behind by athletes at a playing field in New York City. The similarites and dissimilarities of the two locations are striking, as viewers are reminded of the idiosyncracies of locale, as well as the broad ranging, evolving phenomena of industrialization.

Asterisms explores the intrusion of the personal into the system– the placement of objects once owned into a vast, property-less sphere where rules and responsibilities are still yet unformed. He presents the histories of things and places, underlining that both significantly affect the formation of the other. In the tension Orozco creates between what is useful and what is detritus, what is nature and what is a wasteland, the serious conversations that follow the collision of culture and nature are irrepressible.

Asterisms runs until October 21, 2012.

Additional Information

About the Artist:
Born in Mexico in 1962, Gabriel Orozco emerged in the early 1990s as one of the most innovative and talented artists of his time. His works range broadly in terms of medium, and he has an incredible capacity for drawing, phtography, sculpture, installation, and painting. His exhibitions have been shown internationally, and many have by now become classic staples of the period.

Exhibition: July 6 – Oct. 21, 2012
Unter den Linden 13-15 (click here for map)


Anna C. Purcell is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature. Originally from New York, she is currently living and studying in Berlin.

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