Gabriel Orozco, “Watermelons and Cats” (1992) (Image courtesy Tate Museum)

Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco is a master of the appropriated object — throughout his career, he has turned mundane objects like pool tables, soccer balls, and yellow scooters into extraordinary sculptures. On Tuesday, November 13 at 6:30 pm, he’s speaking with legendary art critic Benjamin Buchloh about his latest project at the Guggenheim museum.

What makes Orozco’s work so great to me is that he manages to find the poetry hidden in just about anything. Just check out his alternately hilarious and surreal photograph of cat-food cans balanced on top of watermelons at a grocery store (seen at top). The piece shows an artist making work out of the substance of daily life.

Buchloh, who co-edits the art journal October and teaches at Harvard, will shed light on Orozco’s life and diverse artistic development, which has seen the artist move from shooting photographs of fleeting visual coincidences to decorating an enormous whale skeleton with geometric patterns. That particular piece, “Mobile Matrix,” saw Orozco exhume the expired animal from the sand of Isla Arena, Mexico.

Gabriel Orozco, “Asterisms” (2012) (Image courtesy Guggenheim Museum)

Orozco’s latest project actually shows a return to his early appropriation strategies. His current exhibition at the Guggenheim, Asterisms (seen above), consists of a vast field of found objects collected from the same landscape the whale came from, an array of detritus organized into a composite sculpture. That piece is set off with another collection of junk from a New York City astroturf field — candy wrappers, gum, and thread.

Conceptual art, as Orozco demonstrates, doesn’t have to be dry — it can be as lively and heartfelt as a painting or a poem.

Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Gabriel Orozco with Benjamin Buchloh will be hosted at the Guggenheim (1071 5th Avenue) on Tuesday, November 13, at 6:30 pm and will conclude with a viewing of Asterisms, on display through January 13, 2013. Tickets are $10.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...