In 2008, artist Lisa Hoke created a new installation for the NBMAA on the landing of the LeWitt Staircase. The Gravity of Color, New Britain consists of thousands of plastic cups coated with various paints and then attached to the Museum’s walls adjacent to the stairs. The vibrant colors create breathtaking gradations of colors and textures. The individual cups do not appear as mere plastic cups when put together. Instead, they ooze in a spiraling manner from their intersecting center around the windows, as if they are growing. If you haven’t seen this in person, it is an installation that should not be missed! To see an article on her work at the NBMAA in Art in America click here.
Lisa Hoke’s idea of using “found” materials for her work is both an intriguing and unique concept. However, many people question its stance as “fine art.” Isn’t one of the main componenets of contemporary art the idea of pusing the boundaries? Can already machine-processed items be seen as art? Or is fine art restricted to painting, drawing, and sculpture?
When an artist reuses items in order to achieve a higher purpose in art, the final work is often captivating in a way that a two dimensional painting cannot be. Finding repeating patterns-like those in Hoke’s work-in installation and sculptural art links us not only to the material world, but also to the cellular processes of nature. Every piece has a function that helps with the biology of the overall system. There is something organic and fresh about it that makes this type of art fascinating.
So, how big is this idea of “found” art in the current art world? Marcel Duchamp created Fountain in 1917, and became the originator of readymade “found art” in the early 20th century. This Dadaist and Surrealist believed in finding art in common household objects, such as a urinal, which were hardly ever considered more than functional objects. Duchamp explored the process in which piece of found art becomes “found art.” He discoverd that when the artist puts an object into a dignified context, that usually deems it “art.” It is not until then that the readymade object can be considered anything greater than a commonplace material item. When Duchamp first formed this idea, he spurred much debate in the art world. Found art was not appreciated for a long time in the art community; it has only recently been accepted as a reasonable method for art. One can understand the shock of viewers when they saw Fountain for the first time.
After Duchamp, the use of found objects for art became more and more prevalent. Commodity sculpture is a variation of found art in which commercially manufactured objects are arranged as a sculpture. This is how Hoke’s work can be defined. Commodity sculpture opens artists up to many types of individual units. Just think of all the mass-produced products that could be used. What would you build a commodity sculpture out of?
Click here to see a video interview of Nathan Sawaya, Brick Artist, who is known for creating sculptures out of Legos. Other forms of “found art,” including recycled art, have evolved since Duchamp’s work. To check out information on recycled art see our blog post.
Jennifer Maestre’s work comes to mind when thinking of contemporary commodity sculpture. The NBMAA recently displayed her work in the exhibition Meticulous Masterpieces: Contemporary Art by Dalton Ghetti, Les Lourigan, and Jennifer Maestre (April 2-August 29, 2010). For a look at Maestre’s process and work see this blog post. Inspired by the beautiful textures of sea urchin spines, Maestre binds together one inch segments of sharp colored pencils. Alone, the pencil is simply a perfect, straight machine-created product. But together, the pencils ungulate in a smooth, organic movement. Seeing these pieces in person is an unbelievable experience. The textures she creates are incredibly entrancing and inviting. One finds oneself having a hard time not touching her work. Just as the sea urchin creates these beautiful textures that tantalize its foes to come closer, Maestre’s work draws the viewer in very close. If you are interested in seeing more of her work click here.
What do you think of “found art” and recycled art? How do the materials change to overall effect? Are these pieces fine art? Why or why not? Is it the artistic vision that makes these true works of art? Or do these fall outside that definition since they are made of commonplace materials?