December 18, 2009  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions, Tech
The Gabriel Orozco Website: Stacking the Deck
The <i>Gabriel Orozco</i> website

The Gabriel Orozco website

“There is no way to identify a work by Orozco in terms of physical product. Instead, it must be discerned through leitmotifs and strategies that constantly recur, but in always mutating forms and configurations.”
—Ann Temkin, the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, from the Gabriel Orozco exhibition catalogue

Uh oh.

That was my first reaction to Ann’s description of Gabriel Orozco’s practice. We were researching the artist, looking for persistent visual themes, devices, or elements in his work that could be used to anchor or accent the design of the exhibition website. The works that I was familiar with at the time—Black Kites, Citroen DL, the Atomist series—didn’t share obvious aesthetic connections, so I assumed that a common thread would be found in the pages of the catalogue. But here Ann was saying that Orozco’s mercurial practice provided little in the way of overt physical similarity. And that, given a looming deadline, was daunting.

 More fruitful were meetings Allegra Burnette (Creative Director of Digital Media) and I had with Ann and Paulina Pobocha, a curatorial assistant who worked on the exhibition. Though we didn’t come up with concrete ideas about the look of the site, the curators did provide insight as to its desired spirit: simple and playful. Simple, because the curators wanted something that was easy to use and understand, and playful, because what better way to conceptualize a website dedicated to an artist whose work has included the customization of both billiard and ping pong tables (Carambole with Pendulum, 1996, and Ping-Pond Table, 1998) and chess- and checkerboards (Horses Running Endlessly, 1995, and Lemon Game, 2001)?

In pursuit of a playful spirit, the overarching website concept was for the user interaction to subtly evoke a game of cards. To this end, the initial grid and subsequent layouts might suggest the formations of solitaire or a round of poker. The interaction is responsive, the movement is quick, and images, for the most part, are dealt into view from beyond the browser’s borders, suggesting a physical, as opposed to virtual, experience. We tried to achieve the never-simple ideal of simplicity by implementing a pared-down design that omits all but the essentials. We also distilled the act of browsing through works into two basic modes: chronological and associative. When viewing individual works, flanking arrows allow for chronological exploration, whereas conceptual, physical, and aesthetic connections to other works are represented by a surrounding “halo” of objects. The circle is important here not only because it is the artist’s preferred shape, but because it doesn’t introduce hierarchy to the related works.

The <i>Gabriel Orozco</i> website

The Gabriel Orozco website

Visiting the site is, of course, the best way to understand how we attempted to translate these ideas into a website, so ante up.