Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles, Fruitmarket Gallery

The Fruitmarket Gallery’s new exhibition of Gabriel Orozco’s (b.1962) work maps the way in which a central artistic motif migrates and mutates its way through a whole body of multi-material work. Taking Orozco’s delicately ornamental network of imposing black circles in The Eye of Go (2005) as its focal thinking point, the exhibition etches out the whole compass of his work that draws back to and engages in dialogue with that foundational starting motif.

Aiming to “cut a conceptual slice” through the Mexican-born artist’s creations, the exhibition encircles both unseen acetate works of the 1990s and contemporary, specially-created pieces, all interpreted through the philosophy of “thinking in circles” informing so much of Orozco’s portfolio. Curated by art historian and writer, Briony Fer, through a series of conversations between her and Orozco, the exhibition logically compartmentalises and, Venn-diagram-like, assorts the work out into clusters of ideas around the space, with the commanding, perfect circle haunting every area.

Sketchy, diagrammatic pieces of uniformly scientific circles, mini artistic pie-charts if you will, still bearing traces of furiously erased pencil markings and scribbled annotations, mark the organic-feeling beginnings of the exhibition. From here, the circles start to morph and move into dot-to-dots and little galaxies of waves and spots that spin around the canvas, contorting into more and more circles. Inky fingers then smear across the page, erasing the mathematical precision of the former works to give way to dark protruding splodges, swirling and bleeding ink and graphite.

On airline tickets, letters, envelopes, cedar wood, these black spots creep, spider-like and with trippy ubiquity, across everything, up until the point where the whole thing becomes something of an optical illusion. Circles beguilingly take on the form of human organs and bubbling microbes in a petri dish, a whole pastel universe of spinning planets and miniature mathematical butterflies. Here, muted pinks and dazzling greens of gouache start to leak out of the circles, shouting out at the clinically black and white pearls at the other end of the gallery.

Circles start to take off from the wall, creating layered textures and assuming physical form, with a collection of table-top, almost fossil-like works, from granite river stones from the Guerrero Coast in Mexico, to stone sculptures and battered footballs. And in the upstairs gallery, Orozco’s untitled circles transform into natural giants, his transparent acetates, never before publicly seen, like huge, cavernous looking glasses, caging in his kaleidoscopic circle formations like a pickled Hirst exhibit. Nature then responds with her own exhibit of circles: puddles, shadows, moons and cells, in a series of silver dye bleach prints.

Experimenting with and consequently proving the dexterity and amorphousness of the seemingly rigid, mathematically perplexing circle, thinking in circles not only exposes Orozco’s multi-platform versatility across myriad materials, shapes and ideas, but also re-aligns the frameworks through which an artist’s corpus of work can be interpreted and admired.

Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles, runs until 18 October, Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF.

Katharine Wootton