Gabriel Orozco’s Asterisms, the final project of the commissioning program at Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, is a two-part sculptural and photographic installation comprising thousands of items of detritus the artist has gathered at two sites—a playing field near his home in New York and a protected coastal biosphere in Baja California Sur, Mexico, that is also the repository for flows of industrial and commercial waste from across the Pacific Ocean.
One component, Sandstars, responds to the unique environment encountered in Isla Arena, Mexico, a wildlife reserve, which is simultaneously a whale mating ground, whale cemetery, and industrial wasteland. Orozco has worked there before, having extracted from its sands the whale skeleton that formed the sculpture Mobile Matrix (2006), now permanently installed in the Biblioteca de México José Vasconcelos in Mexico City. His return to the sanctuary yielded entirely new results in response to the voluminous amounts of detritus deposited there by ocean currents. He created a large sculptural installation from the refuse he discovered—including glass bottles, lightbulbs, buoys, tools, stones, and oars—by subjecting it to taxonomic arrangements on the gallery floor. This monumental sculptural carpet of nearly 1,200 objects is accompanied by 12 large-scale gridded photographs of the individual objects in a studio setting, organized typologically by material, color, size, and so on. A 13th grid documents the landscape from which the objects were retrieved along with incidental compositions made in situ from the castaway items.
Astroturf Constellation similarly explores taxonomic classification, but on a completely different scale. It comprises a collection of small particles and miniscule forms of debris left behind by athletes and spectators in the Astroturf of a playing field on Pier 40 in New York. Orozco displays these myriad items—including coins, sneakers logos, bits of soccer balls, candy wrappers, wads of chewing gum, and tangles of thread, again numbering nearly 1,200—on a large platform. As in Sandstars, the objects are displayed alongside 13 photographic grids, creating a kind of visual ricochet between an individual object and its photographic representation.
The exhibition Asterisms overall, in which the two bodies of work play off each other in a provocative oscillation between the macro and the micro, invokes several of the artist’s recurring motifs, including the traces of erosion, poetic encounters with mundane materials, and the ever-present tension between nature and culture. It also underscores and amplifies Orozco’s subtle practice of subjecting the world to personal, idiosyncratic systems.