Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, born 1962) Atomists: Ascension (diptych) 1996

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Lot 38
Gabriel Orozco
(Mexican, born 1962)
Atomists: Ascension (diptych)

Sold for £ 55,000 (US$ 73,208) inc. premium
Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, born 1962)
Atomists: Ascension (diptych)

computer-generated laser print mounted on aluminium, in two parts

Overall: 196.9 by 140.3 cm.
77 1/2 by 55 in.

This work was executed in 1996, and is the artist's proof aside from the edition of 3.


  • Provenance
    Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
    Ho Gallery, New York
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1997

    London, Artangel, 50 St. James's Street, Empty Club, 1996, p. 45, another example illustrated in colour; pp. 60-62, another example illustrated in installation views in black and white
    Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo; Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Gabriel Orozco, 2000, p. 149, another example illustrated in colour
    Long Beach, Museum of Latin American Art, México: Expected/Unexpected, 2011, p. 108, another example illustrated in colour

    Briony Fer, Benjamin H. D. Buchloch and Rochelle Stein, Gabriel Orozco, London 2004, p. 97, another example illustrated in colour
    Jessica Morgan, Gabriel Orozco, London 2011, p. 99, another example illustrated in colour

    Although today he is widely regarded as Mexico's greatest living artist, the influences which have shaped Gabriel Orozco's disparate body of work are truly international. Encompassing painting, photography, sculpture and installation, Orozco's output over the last three decades has continually demonstrated his versatility, his work never failing to surprise and delight. His creativity has been informed by constantly shifting geography, as the artist has spent much of his lifetime moving from place to place, an itinerant refusing to settle in a permanent studio space. In each location, Orozco's art has inevitably taken on aspects of the local culture, continually pushing his aesthetic in unexpected directions. In Atomists: Ascension of 1996, an apparently ordinary newspaper photograph is blown up to life-size proportions and overlaid with a network of brightly-coloured semi-circles; a very British image filtered through a perceptive Mexican eye.

    The image that we find in Atomists: Ascension was created for one of Orozco's most famous projects, entitled Empty Club, held over several weeks in the summer of 1996. A large scale site-specific installation, Empty Club was situated in the unused interior of a former gentleman's club in London's St. James's, a historic district with a long tradition of elite associations and leisure. Featuring a variety of artworks in both two and three dimensions, the contents of the installation were often playful and humorous but also intellectually rigorous, a combination that Orozco has become adept at pulling off like no other. One room of the club was dedicated to the series of works entitled The Atomists, all of which feature images taken from British newspapers which show athletes in action, photographs which capture these modern-day heroes in moments of exertion, drama and passion. In the present work we see a group of rugby players, two of them being lifted by their teammates in a moment redolent of Robert Delaunay's L'équipe de Cardiff from 1913, an elegantly coiled pyramid of human bodies in motion; at its apex a player with his back turned towards the viewer, just below him another with eyes closed, mouth slightly open and arms stretched, as if about to take flight. Each player displays complete concentration, lost in their own world of effort, enveloped in total physical and mental exertion. The Bernini-esque baroque beauty of this unchoreographed moment, reproduced here on an imposing scale, is mesmerising.

    But there is more to Atomists: Ascension than just that appropriated image. Orozco has artfully overlaid it with grid of dissected spheres, a recurring motif in his work. Like the title of the series, these shapes relate to the artist's interest in the ancient Greek theory of atomism, which proposes that all matter is formed from tiny, indivisible particles or units. Here these particles are rendered visible to the human eye in colourful form, and as in many of Orozco's best works, we witness the everyday mixed with the scholarly, almost arcane.

    Although it features an image of an unmistakeably English pastime which was inspired by the original London location of Empty Club, the afterlife of this, and indeed all of the Atomist images, reveals its international appeal: Ascension has been included in various recent exhibitions and publications in Mexico, the USA and Great Britain, confirming its important place within the artist's oeuvre. In turning sport, with all of its theatre, its skill and its emotion, into great art, Gabriel Orozco succeeds where many others have failed. The quasi-religious vision that he creates in Atomists: Ascension is wholly immersive and captivating, convincingly capturing the purest, most elementary levels of human spirit and materiality.
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