Monday, December 28, 2009

Stepping on Orozco

I spent a few hours at New York's Museum of Modern Art checking out the Gabriel Orozco retrospective. Given all the hype and coverage, how could I not? To that point, here are a couple of the glowing critiques given by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Anyway, proving that I do actually agree with the critics once in a while, I quite loved it--it was funny and, at times, beautiful (e.g., the whale skeleton tattooed with seemingly-organic graphite abstractisms, the etched ceramic shells). Though there were a few found objects that I puzzled over (see the "Empty White Shoe Box" photo).

In honor of Orozco, and my experience with his white shoebox, I wrote a quick and slightly silly poem. Anyway, the exhibit is worth the trip but try and go at odd times to avoid the school kids and tourists. And no critiquing the poem, please, it's only for this page!

Modern Art

            It makes one appreciate the space around an artwork
            as much as the art itself.
                      - From, Dec 23, 2009

The guard grabbed my arm the moment I stumbled
on the small white box on the floor, crushing
one of its sides. Though it wasn’t until he whispered,
Good God!, that my eyes found the very tiny sign
on the wall behind, which read “Empty
Shoe Box,” Courtesy Marion Goodman Gallery, New York,
naming the object I’d just destroyed as Art.

It wasn’t my fault. A group of gangly girls
most likely on a school trip giddy with the scent
of each other or with being thirteen had pushed
past me, almost over me. Of course, I’d been absorbed
in a hunt for my glasses, one hand
holding the mouth of my messenger bag away
from my body, the other wrist-deep
in its depths. You see, I can’t really read
without them, actually without glasses
even familiar faces look fuzzy these days.

So perhaps it wasn’t odd that I overlooked
the white box on the floor
next to an equally white wall. I read later
that in ‘93, Gabriel Orozco, the artist, ran hours
through Venice’s dark flooded streets searching
for a similar box, after someone,
like me, kicked it during its first exhibition.

Less than two minutes later, a woman
in a black suit with creased edges and unexpected
purple punk hair emerged from a door etched
into a far wall. She held a brown paper bag
in one hand. The woman stepped quickly over
to us and without speaking to me
or the guards, reached down and picked up
the dented white box, tucked it under her left arm.

Then she reached into her brown paper bag,
extracted another white box exactly the same,
sans dent. She placed the box carefully
on the floor, turned it a few degrees
to the left, then stood and, still without saying
a word, returned through the door in the wall,
clicking it softly behind her. I wonder
what she told Marion Goodman.

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