Shoe box, squashed Citroen at Orozco's UK show

LONDON (Reuters) - A shoebox, chequered skull and squashed Citroen car were on display at a new exhibition at London’s Tate Modern gallery dedicated to Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco.

Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco poses beside 'La DS' at the Tate Modern gallery in central London January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Some of the 48-year-old’s most recognizable works are included in the retrospective, which runs from January 19 to April 25, including an oval, pocketless billiard table across which the red ball swings like a pendulum.

“Carambole with Pendulum” (1996) is a suitably playful work for a show where the artist’s humor plays a prominent part.

“Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe” is a collection of 40 photographs of two or more similar yellow motorbikes parked together in different parts of Berlin.

The artist was based in the city at the time, and whenever he saw the same make of motorcycle as his own, he would park next to it and capture the image on film.

“It became a game,” Orozco said a catalog available to accompany the exhibition. “When I was using it I discovered there was a kind of communication between the owners of Schwalbes. So then I decided to invent this game.”

He left printed invitations to yellow Schwalbe owners to a “massive” reunion in the parking space outside the Neue Nationalgalerie. Two people turned up.

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Another easily recognizable work is “Black Kites” (1997), a human skull covered in black and white squares which are distorted and stretched around the back and sides.

While he was already working on the piece, with its themes of death and mortality, Orozco suffered a collapsed lung and carried out work on the skull as he convalesced.

“I wanted to see how the behavior of a bi-dimensional grid on a very complex and real organic shape like this one would evolve,” he said of the work.

“Carefully filling the pores of the bones with graphite was quite an experience ... And I was very much face-to-face with death. It was intense to experience that.”

“La DS” (1993) is possibly the artist’s best known work, and was inspired by the now classic sleek Citroen car manufactured in France from the 1950s.

From the side, the silver-grey automobile looks normal, but from the front and back it has obviously been narrowed. Orozco sliced the car in three and removed the middle section, exaggerating its aerodynamic design.

The artist has a reputation for living and working around the globe, having lived in Mexico City, Costa Rica, New York and Paris among other locations.

In “Yielding Stone” (1992), he made a plasticine ball equal to his own weight, and pushed it through the streets of New York.

Gradually, it became imprinted by the journey and gathered pieces of grit, dust and other detritus in what commentators see as a play on memory and movement.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato