Orozco’s patient remark in their [his paintings’] defense gives me pause: “People forget that I want to disappoint.” That strategy, targeting “the expectations of the one who waits to be amazed,” has worked well for him. I vividly remember being outraged in the proverbial manner of a philistine exposed to modern art when, for his first solo gallery show in New York, in 1994, Orozco displayed, on the walls of the main room at Marian Goodman, nothing but four Dannon yogurt lids. I recovered, by and by, to take the artist’s point, which amounted to disappointment as aesthetic therapy. The transparent, blue-rimmed, date-stamped, price-labelled little items were—and are, at MOMA—rather lovely, when contemplated without prejudice. Are they art? No. They are Dannon yogurt lids. The art part is a triggered awareness that the world teems with vernacular loveliness. If you overlook that, it’s sad for you.
I’m sorry Schjeldahl “recovered” because I haven’t. I’m already capable of seeing “vernacular loveliness” in the world, thank you, and don’t need unsolicited “aesthetic therapy” to remind me that it exists. Orozco aims to “disappoint,” like that would be unusual. Clearly he’s never been to Chelsea.
Have we so lost touch with art’s ability to surprise and delight that we don’t even try anymore? If we were to admit how rare the true art experience is, thousands of museums, galleries, and art schools would have to go out of business.
So we settle for emptiness, cool ideas, and illustrations of theory, and make fun of those who see art as having a higher purpose.
Pinning yogurt lids to a gallery wall is like inviting people to a concert, sitting down at a piano, and then not playing any music. Wait….didn’t someone actually do that? And wasn’t it in, like, 1952?
It’s time we moved on.
Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting (894-1), 2005 11 3/4 x 17 3/8
If, after the Orozco show, you want to indulge your senses in a retrograde manner, hop on over to the same place we first saw those Dannon lids, the Marian Goodman Gallery, and wallow in Gerhard Richter’s gorgeous scraped abstractions, up through January 9th.