Artists are magicians in their own right for making something from nothing, for infusing the everyday mundane tools and objects with poetic meaning and creating a whole new experience from it. In the holiday season, with a good part of society taking part in excess shopping, people are becoming increasingly conscious of what we discard. Our relationship to the accumulation of stuff and the level of waste humans produce seems to be collectively shifting. The artists whose work is shared here: David Ellis, Vik Muniz, Gabriel Kuri, Song Dong, Tim Noble and Sue Webster demonstrate the way individual artistic voices arise from this consciousness and the beautiful and often magical work that is informed by our accumulated or discarded stuff.
Street art has become especially exciting and unpredictable over the last several years. However, the last place many would expect to find it is on the water. The New York based street artist SWOON designed three sea vessels built from salvaged material. The “flotilla” sailed from the coast of Slovenia to Venice, Italy. Though, definitely not the street SWOON effectively brings an urban aesthetic to sea. Photographer Tod Seelie was along for the ride to document the trip. The photographs and wild journey are as amazing as the vessels themselves. The raucous mash up of materials perfectly match the crew and set the atmosphere for what was certainly a wild ride.
There’s something at once lighthearted and sad about Benoit Paillé‘s photographs in the series Jour du Déménagement (translates from French as “Moving Day”). Discarded furniture, boxes, mattresses and other household items sit in piles waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck. The photographs are taken in the dark, seemingly in the middle of the night, and the trash lit by a single bulb. Little attention is paid to garbage on the curb; at night while everyone is sleeping it’s completely forgotten. Regardless, items we’ve lived with often for years quietly sit there all night. The scene is reminiscent of food in the refrigerator, and wondering what happens when the door closes and the light goes out.
With a toxic mix of oil-based paint, the surfaces of artist Claire Falkenberg‘s large-scale photos are transformed into mysterious and eerie clouds. The ominous, milky clouds obscure the space directly in front of the photographer, delaying the viewer’s ability to understand what lies just under the surface of each picture plane. This inclusion is generous, because it offers another layer of surface detail to the viewer who is willing to inspect the ghostly swirls of oil paint. The slick, snapshot-style images of trash slowly begin to reveal themselves—vanishing almost entirely at the center, and bringing into question just exactly what Falkenberg has chosen to cover up in her series.
Dan Colen’s trash-to-treasure mixed media installations remind us of the potential of beauty in the discarded. In his exhibition, Blowin’ In the Wind, Colen repurposes the painting tools which he uses to create his Trash series. These objects are placed or hung in the gallery, absent of the painted canvases that resulted from their use. Painting tools include objects such as a flip-flop, a paint can, rags, string, bottles, a tire, a yellow mop bucket, a McDonald’s food bag, and an umbrella handle. In Out of the Blue and Into the Black, Colen tars and feathers an entire gallery wall with one small and bright painted canvas among this image of morbidity. Also part of this installation is a cluster of suspended beat-up and forgotten blue bicycles. Representing the more literal approach of trash-to-treasure are canvases onto which Colen has pasted painted trash or gum and gum wrappers. Colen’s background is in painting and a series of his oil paintings, entitled The Spirits That I Called, will be on view at Oko Gallery in New York from May 15 – June 15.
Recycling is a way of life in Cateura, Paraguay. Many people there earn money by scouring the huge landfill for items that can be recycled. A certain garbage picker, though, began recycling for much more than money: for the young people in his community. Nicolás Gómez began creating instruments – violins, cellos, drums, guitars – from the trash he sifted through and gave them to local children. The idea picked up steam and children’s orchestra known as “The Recycled Orchestra” came to life. Landfill Harmonic, a documentary on Gómez and the orchestra, is slated to capture the inspirational story. [via]
The installations of Carly Fisher may at first appear to be trash strewn galleries. However, closer inspection reveals that none of the items are actual garbage. Rather, Fisher carefully recreates litter from little more than paper and glue. The meticulous attention she gives to sculpting trash replicas, so to say, may seem odd. However, the familiar international name brands dotting the gallery floor raise the question: do these corporations possibly give the same meticulous attention to the branding of litter as Fischer? As one of her gallery statements puts it, “Perhaps there is a marketing edge to trash?”
But no, really, Matthew Yake’s series “237 Pieces of Trash Around the Bleachers” is anything but a trash collection. His photos are poignant, clear, and powerful. He’s got other equally awesome series including one of artists in their studios that holds it’s own against other interior powerhouse sites like “The Selby“.