As plastic bags slowly become a thing of the past and reusable totes take over, one artist is putting the leftovers to good use. Robert Janson’s beautiful plastic bag installations range from delicate to heavy and resemble giant pink jellyfish. Using light, heat and air, Janson and his friends recycle the plastic bags into moving sculptures. With his installations, Janson explores the ideas of color concepts, geometry, light and presentation to effectively transform his pieces from simple groupings of plastic bags into powerful floating sculptures. Recalling Andy Warhol’s floating Mylar balloons, the resulting pieces hover in space, moving with the viewer (and the air currents of the room).
The installation process begins with Janson and his helpers inflating countless plastic bags until they are taut. Then, employing geometry, Janson ties the bags into starburst groupings of six and eight bags, and then joins those groupings together. Gelled lights are then added, creating a spectacular luminosity as the light passes through the transparent bags. The resulting sculpture is a moving amorphous mass, looking more like a freakish (and grandiose!) member of the jellyfish family in appearance and movement, rather than a bunch of plastic bags.
Janson’s other plastic bag sculptures are equally transformative. By fully inflating larger bags and then freezing them, Janson is able to create the illusion of weight – the pieces look as though they were cast from bronze, instead of like they are full of air. He also “sculpts” the bags using an iron. With heat applied, Janson is able to melt a bag’s shape, creating more shape options without the pointed edges of the pre-formed bag. Using simple materials, Janson has achieved the difficult task of transforming something that we might throw away into something delicate and beautiful.
Images © Robert Janson