There’s a lot of trash on view in the art world right now. Literal trash, as in discarded materials that artists have found in dumpsters, landfills, and otherwise abandoned areas. Both New York Magazine and Art in America recently profiled the artist Swoon, who sailed to the Venice Biennale this month on a boat made entirely of New York City garbage. On view at the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts is Trash Menagerie, an exhibition of 30 works imaginatively made from recycled rubbish. University of Trash is on view through August 3rd at the Sculpture Center in Queens, and opening September 2nd at Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco is Gugger Petter’s exhibition of “paintings” made from discarded newspaper. Be sure to check them out if they are in your area.
There are many different theories about the attraction to found objects and discarded material: some site environmental motivation, as artists recycle our garbage and highlight just how much we waste. Others suggest it is a reflection of the economy, and artists are forced to find, rather than buy, their materials. Still others site that it is simply a continuation of Duchamp’s readymade and the subsequent trend of found objects. I personally love these works simply for the material’s transformation - there is something oddly delightful when an artist takes discarded objects and gives them a new life with a rich aesthetic.
A lot of artists have challenged the way we look at discarded materials and everyday objects. Many are quite famous, and below are a few examples of emerging artists. Shannon McLaughlin paints on an old chess board, while Quinlan Kyp-Johnson’s photos and Michael Willinger’s prints challenge you to reconsider objects we see daily. Below, Janice Gilman photographs discarded materials, while Peter Tabor paints them. All of these artists, and the current exhibitions on “Trash Art”, challenge viewers to think differently about the creative potential lurking in everyday objects.
Peter Tabor - Fix
Janice Gilman - Sign
Quinlan Kyp-Johnson - Bird Cage