Frieze on Ariel Orozco at Federica Schiavo Gallery, Rome

01 April 2012

‘Ariel Orozco’s second solo show at Rome’s Federica Schiavo gallery, ‘Detra Del Cristal’ (Behind the Glass), dealt with issues of plenitude and scarcity, pre-emption and impotence, evoking both desire and lack in a consumer driven world. Playing on these elements the show expressed – via the presentation of a Champagne bottle, over 3000 glasses filled with sand, an unlit firework, a pencil and tens of plug holes bored into the floor – the eerie sensation that whilst all may be well, there is always the potential for things to change quickly and in ways we might not have possibly forecast.

On the opening night viewers were met with a cautious curator – Chris Sharp, a writer and editor at Kaleidoscope magazine – warning people not to knock the grey pencil, Gris (Grey, 2012), which was precariously balanced on corner of a desk. Across the same room – one of four – an unopened Champagne bottle, so full of cracks as to make it hazardous to drink – Untitled (2012) – mocked visitors accustomed to Italian hospitality. In the second room Untitled (Sed) (Thirst, 2012), comprised thousands of sand-filled tall drinking glasses placed on the floor in formations arranged to evoke puddles, lakes, or even countries. The viewer was left to negotiate the thin paths left between these formations, trying to avoid knocking over a glass and spreading sand across a spotless floor. This created a vertiginous effect as much for the unusual congruence of materials – drinking glasses and sand, which seem as if they ought not to be conjoined, although the former are made of the latter – as for the dizzying task of negotiating one’s way to rooms three and four. By this point, the effect of the show was to weave a sort of disjointed narrative with no plot or end – a whodunnit, for which the crime, let alone the perpetrator, was unknown. Indeed, Sharp sees the curator as a kind of editor, highlighting a recent tendency in Rome towards a literary treatment of the exhibition. This was evident at Gallery Frutta’s inaugural show, curated by Chris Fitzpatrick, and with ‘D’Apres Giorgio’ at the Casa Di Chirico (ongoing until January 2013), which was curated by Luca Lo Pinto, editor of Nero magazine. All of these shows lead the viewer on a meandering mental path. This tendency is the obverse of, for example, the conceptual works of Paris-based duo, Claire Fontaine, who are showing at T293 and the Fondazione Pastificio Cerere in Rome; they communicate a clear message with little room for interpretation.

The third room in ‘Detra Del Cristal’ featured a spotlit firework rocket placed on the floor, facing the door (Untitled, 2012). The rocket might have exploded or caused injury, but, unlit, it merely lay there, in the limelight but with no part to play. In room four around 50 plugholes were bored into the floor – Untitled (Problema) (Problem 2012) – through which only darkness could be seen, suggesting the possibility of a boundless void, but also, again, a lack. Between these rooms a partially deflated beach ball appeared to be a prop for what might have been a perfect day out, were it not for the lack of water, the impossibility of opening the champagne, and the glasses being filled with sand – one of the endless narratives offered by Orozco. The invitation to such imaginative whimsy could be criticized for falling short of the kind of penetrating critique the world might arguably need from art right now. One could even see the show as a parlour game or lateral thinking exercise, in which people are invited to piece together a number of scenarios – a room, some glasses, an impossibly balanced pencil – to solve a puzzle. Can we afford such mirth? Why not? After all, if a narrative can be about anything, anything is possible’

Text by Mike Watson
Frieze online April 2012

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