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b. 1962, Jalapa, Mexico
Gabriel Orozco was born in Jalapa, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1962. From 1981 to 1984, he attended the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, after which he studied at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, from 1986 to 1987. Since that time, he has traveled extensively and has lived in Berlin, Mexico City, and New York.
Orozco works in media including drawing, installation, photography, sculpture, and video. His aesthetic vocabulary is indebted to Conceptualism, the artistic traditions of his native Mexico, and Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. The fragile relationship of everyday objects to one another and to human beings is Orozco’s principal subject. In his early work, he placed such items in unexpected locations, documenting their presence in photographs. Five Problems (1992), for example, depicts five potatoes sitting on five stacks of spiral notebooks in the stationery section of a store. Throughout the 1990s, Orozco continued to use found everyday objects in his sculptures, as is apparent in Yogurt Caps (1994), a series of clear plastic yogurt lids with colored edges, and Toilet Ventilator (1997), an installation that includes rolls of toilet paper attached to the blades of a ceiling fan, each progressively unraveling as the ventilator turns.
Animals, insects, and the human body are often the subjects of Orozco’s work. Sleeping Dog (1990), My Dog’s Chair (1991), and Dog Urine in the Snow (1993), all color photographs, illustrate the artist’s affinity for canines, while works like Octopus (1991) and Snake (1991) arrange quotidian items—metal tubing and pieces of an iron, respectively—into odd, humorous evocations of the titular creatures. In addition to anatomy, geometric abstraction has also preoccupied Orozco throughout his career. Path of Thought (1997) and Black Kites (1997) consist of geometric graphite marks traced on human skulls. Ticket-Alitalia (2001) is a plane ticket overlaid with circular patterns that evinces Orozco’s idea that art can be made whenever and wherever one chooses. Mobile Matrix (2006) features a whale skeleton (excavated from the national park in Baja California) inscribed with geometric patterns in graphite and suspended to give the effect of motionless floating.
Orozco began exhibiting his work in 1983. He has had solo exhibitions at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1995 and 1998); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2004); Serpentine Gallery, London (2004); Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2005); and Guggenheim Museum, New York (2012). Major traveling solo exhibitions have been organized by the Kunsthalle Zürich (1996–97), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2000–01), and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009–11). His work has been included in the Venice Biennale (1993, 2003, and 2005), Whitney Biennial (1995 and 1997), Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1999), and Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1997 and 2002). He has received numerous honors, including the Secció Espacios Alternativos prize at the Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Mexico City (1987); a residency with Deutscher Akademische Austasch Dienst, Berlin (1995); and the German blueOrange prize (2006). Orozco lives and works in Mexico City, New York, and Paris.