Highlighting the artist’s interest in mapping and geography, Gabriel Orozco’s Samurai Tree (Invariant #9) merges technical precision with organic growth. The composition and strong palette of the work captivates the viewer, drawing them into the work’s orbit. Emanating from a single center point, the pattern of circles and quadrants is inspired by the mathematic logic behind a game of chess. Part of Gabriel Orozco's celebrated Samurai Tree paintings, this work was painted in 2005, the same year the Mexican artist had exhibited Samurai Tree (Invariant Red #4) at the Venice Biennale. Orozco’s Samurai Tree paintings marked his triumphant return to painting, and were first shown to critical acclaim in a solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington in 2004.
Orozco states, “The circle is a very useful instrument in terms of movement, in relation to gravity and erosion. It’s the tendency of objects when they’re in movement and are eroded by friction... I decided to do [the paintings] to see how much they could express geometry but also organicity” (G. Orozco, quoted in B. Buchloh “Gabriel Orozco in conversation with Benjamin Buchloh,” The Experience of Art: 51st International Art Exhibition, exh. cat., Venice Biennale, 2005). At the very center of the canvas, a circle has been divided into four quadrants. Another circle follows the first, each bisected by a single dividing line. Repeating this process systematically and varying the size of each circle he finishes his canvas by filling its quadrants and halves with a combination of his four-color palette. The sequence of colors is based upon a Samurai in Orozco’s terms, as it moves across a chessboard like a knight: one square forward, and two to the side or two squares forward and one to the side. Orozco repeats this motion until the whole canvas is covered.
In 2005, Orozco used a computer program to map out every possible permutation, a total of 677 color variants, which he has gradually painted one by one over the years. By meticulously following the mathematic logic behind the game of chess, these works examine the multitude of possibilities inherent within a defined structure to a mesmerizing effect.
An elegant application of this logic to the greater logic of the natural world, in Samurai Tree (Invariant #9), Orozco evolves this structural diagram to relate to the organic symmetry in the growth of a tree. Speaking of the universality of this series, Orozco has said: “I love the idea of how trees grow from a center, how they also grow underground and on the ground from a center and a horizon and they start to develop all the branches. A tree is a metaphor for me” (G. Orozco, quoted in Y. A. Bois, 'The Tree and the Knight', Gabriel Orozco, exh. cat., Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 2006, p. 269).